Most days of the week, Alex Harvey hits the road to Québec City, where he works out with the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre, undergoes physio treatments and studies law at Laval University.
The drive along route 440 from Mont Sainte-Anne (MSA) to Québec’s capital is about 45 kilometers and lined with views worth pulling over for. Just outside the city, there’s Montmorency Falls, the province’s largest waterfall and 30 meters (98 feet) higher than Niagara Falls. On the other side of the road is the Saint Lawrence River, so wide it becomes tidal near Québec City.
But Harvey was born just north in Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges and grew up skiing at MSA. Sights like the Île d’Orléans Bridge are daily for the World Cup skier, at least when he’s home in the summer.
The 23-year-old won’t be around long with upcoming trips to Hawaii and New Zealand and additional camps at the Haig Glacier in Alberta and Park City, Utah. Before joining the Canadian men’s team in Maui on June 16, Harvey spoke to FasterSkier on the phone while driving to Quebec City.
Early last Tuesday afternoon, he was done with training and on his way to treatment. After that, Harvey had a three-hour night course at Laval, and then it was back north to MSA, where he’d start all over again the next morning.
FasterSkier: What’s your university schedule like?
Alex Harvey: It’s a summer semester (April 30-June 15) so it’s condensed to a month and a half. While you’re in it, it’s pretty intense (two classes per week), but the finals are only a month and a half after the first class so you can remember more I think. I like it. [The classes are] all in the evening from 6 to 9 so I can train all day and do all I have to during the day and then I come in for class and come back.
FS: How long do you think it will take to earn your law degree?
AH: I’m in second year or the equivalent of second year. I think from now on it’s going to be harder to get the classes I want. I was on a four-class-a-year pace and normal law students at Laval do 10 a year. I’ll need at least five or six more years so two more Olympics and then I can be done when I’m done skiing and [take] the bar and start practicing, hopefully.
FS: How’s training going? What about your back injury?
AH: The back’s good. Last year at this time of the year, I wasn’t allowed to run because I wasn’t strong enough to stabilize myself. My back was making my knee hurt and all sorts of things. Now I can do anything I want to do. I can run as much as I want, I can do all the training I want. I think it’s better than last year and the training is going well.
I’m starting to get pretty tired now because it’s been two big weeks of training, but it’s good. We’ve had an early start to the summer so it’s nice to get some training in warmer temperatures.
FS: What’s new with your training plan?
AH: This year we’re putting a lot of emphasis on, during strength training, not necessarily exercises that will develop a lot of strength, but for me, just stabilize the back and use the muscles properly. [It’s] good to learn how to compensate different ways, to compensate for the instabilities, but last year during the summer and the winter, it just reached a point where the body couldn’t compensate anymore.
Now I’m just kind of teaching the muscles how to, like use the glutes more, to stabilize myself. I’m spending the same amount of time in the gym as last year, but doing less pure strength exercise and doing a lot of pilates now and a lot of things [for] control. I think I already have enough strength, especially upper-body strength, so I just need to learn how to transfer that into the skiing and not get injured.
FS: Had you done pilates before?
AH: I started last year. The osteopath that I’m working with is making the plan for that and talking a lot with our strength coach. (Note: Both the national-team osteopath and strength coach plan to accompany Harvey and his teammates on the World Cup next season).
FS: You must be excited that your personal coach and Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) head coach, Louis Bouchard is now also the assistant national-team men’s coach. How will that change things?
AH: Last year he was at most camps. He was in Hawaii, but he wasn’t in New Zealand. This year he’s going to come to every camp, so Hawaii, the Haig, New Zealand and Park City, so all the camps I’m going to.
He spent a lot of time with the team [last] winter, and it’s going to be the same next year. It’s exciting that he can follow me the whole winter around, and now with Lenny [Valjas] being a full-time World Cup racer and Dasha [Gaiazova] in Québec right now, too, training with [CNEPH], there’s three athletes. We’re all supported by B210 so that’s how we can be on the World Cup.
FS: Will Bouchard be with you in Europe all winter?
AH: He’s not going to come everywhere; it’s going to be kind of the same as last year. Last year, they were alternating between him and [head coach] Justin [Wadsworth] mostly, and [assistant coach] Eric de Nys sometimes. They know for the athletes it’s hard to go back and fourth [between Canada and Europe] because of the risk of illness and getting tired, but for the staff it’s not that big of a deal. It’s actually better because they all have families and things back home so they usually stay three weeks in Europe and then they go back for a bit. There’s a rotation between Louis and Justin, and then for world champs, they’re both going to be there because it’s the main goal of the season. Other than that, they alternate.
FS: What do you think your travel schedule will be like for Canada’s World Cups in Québec and Canmore?
AH: I think we will be coming from Europe and going right to Canmore. There’s going to be snow for the [Québec] races, but I’m not sure how good the training will be in early December so we might be in Canmore until, like, last minute and then just show up in Québec a couple days before the race then go right back to Canmore.
FS: With the Tour de Ski starting just 12 days after the Canmore World Cup, how will you prepare?
AH: For me next year, world champs is the main goal, and last year, it was the Tour just because there was no main championship. The Tour will be not the huge focus. Especially with the final climb, I have a lot of problems with the blood flow in my arteries on a steady climb like that. Last year, I was double poling by the end. I can’t really do well in the Tour because of the climb so it’s not really a big deal not to be in great shape there.
Related story: Québec Ready for First World Cup; Harvey Shows Support
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.