CANMORE, Alberta – When you don’t have it, well, it’s just not there. That’s more or less how Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey felt Saturday after placing 50th and 52nd, respectively, in the Alberta World Cup 1.3-kilometer freestyle sprint.
Two of Canada’s favorite “nordic knights” didn’t quite live up to their standards in the qualifier. For the 24-year-old Harvey, it was his worst sprint result in three years. Kershaw, who turns 30 in five days, placed 62nd in a classic sprint three weeks ago in Kuusamo, Finland. This season, he has yet to make the rounds in three World Cup sprints.
Despite showing signs of progress with an individual season-best of 17th in Thursday’s 15 k mass start, Kershaw said he lacked energy and felt “extremely flat” in the sprint. Harvey felt the same way, and about a half hour after the qualifier, both decided to bag Sunday’s 30 k skiathlon.
“My race was viciously bad,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t have any power at all in the body and still feeling super-fatigued from the hard effort on Thursday so I am really disappointed.”
“I felt kind of the same,” Harvey said as the two sat inside the Canmore Nordic Centre trying to get warm with temperatures around -6 degrees Celsius (20 Fahrenheit) outside. “No power on each stride and no tempo either, so you are pretty screwed when that happens.”
The new 1.3 k sprint course, considered by several to be the hardest short sprint course on the circuit, was unforgiving with a long climb out of the start followed by a sweeping descent into the stadium. Harvey said he was offsetting (V1-ing) over the top without any power.
“Then I was dead after thirty seconds,” he said. “Just nothing in the body.”
And Kershaw even cut his hair for Saturday’s race. But just like Samson, the biblical warrior who’s hair was also cut, it made him weaker.
“I am working on growing it out again,” Kershaw said.
While their results were low points for both, the two national team members are moving on without risking another energy-draining race on Sunday.
“I think Thursday and today, if you don’t listen to signs like that … fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you’re an idiot,” Kershaw said. “So it is time to put the legs up and change gears.
“We kind of thought maybe we could get away with it, but now we have to turn the page for what matters in the season, that’s the Tour de Ski and World Championships,” he added.
Wadsworth said deciding to let them sit out Sunday’s skiathlon wasn’t an easy decision, but given their full race schedule and the toll it’s taken on those two especially, he felt it was necessary.
“It has just been so tough, we’ve been trying to keep the training up for the Tour, and travel and race,” he said. “This schedule, well it’s just too much.”
“It is not easy not to race them tomorrow and tomorrow is really the day we had pinned some hopes on for both of them,” he continued. “[But] they’ve been having a really hard time recovering.”
In their place, Canadians Knute Johnsgaard and John Parry, both on the Yukon Elite Team, will start the skiathlon. After that, the last race of the weekend, Wadsworth said he’s giving his guys some time off that involves about four or five days completely off.
“We’re going to go for kind of a radical rest approach,” he said. “My guess is they really were running in the classic race at like 40 percent and if they can do what they did at 40 percent then I think their 100 percent is going to be really wicked when it finally comes out.”
Next stop: Davos, which is a good thing for the Canadians.
“We have a good setup there and a place they like to be so hopefully it’ll be just what they need,” Wadsworth said.
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.