Canadian Alex Harvey skied back onto the Tour de Ski podium, finishing third in the 35 k freestyle pursuit, his third podium of the seven stage event.
In a post-race phone call, Harvey said he woke up feeling good, always a positive sign in a stage race.
“I was pretty happy to feel that my legs were pretty light in the warmup,” he said.
Starting in bib 3, Harvey maintained position, skiing with the main pack. The group was unable to close on eventual winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, and numbered seven for the final sprint.
Harvey lost out only to Peter Northug (NOR) in the chase pack, edging Swede Calle Halfvarsson and defending Tour champion Alexander Legkov of Russia.
The course winds gradually up for the first 12 kilometers, and Harvey said the pace was not overly taxing.
Last year Legkov attacked hard on that same section of the course, but Harvey said the Russian was “not as much of a beast” this time around.
With no one pushing, Harvey even took a turn at the front, unusual he explained because “I feel like in climbing that I’m not as strong as these guys, but the pace was just that slow.”
Harvey was especially pleased as he has not skied well in this stage the past several years. He entered the day aiming to stay with the chase pack over the crest of the climb and into the gradual descent.
“The goal was to stay in the top group and fight for the podium at the end,” Harvey said. “Looking at my last two years, I was starting with the similar group but then getting popped two-thirds of the way and ending in a group fighting for sixth or seventh place.”
Harvey described the finish as “a bit messy” despite featuring only seven skiers.
With the likes of Legkov and Austrian Johannes Duerr, who posted the fastest time of the day, there were several non-sprinters gunning for the podium.
Harvey described those two as specifically being “all over the place” at the end.
“He [Duerr] was kind of switching from left to right lane with 500 meters to go … I was just following Petter … but I just smashed his pole. I got a bit out of position, but I was able to generate some speed out of the final corner.”
He got by Halfvarsson and one other skier whom he couldn’t identify in the final 200 meters, leaving only Northug.
“Petter had his usual finish and I just couldn’t quite match that, but I was happy,” Harvey said.
“We are happy with where the guys are at and to have Alex on the podium again,” Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth said in a Cross-Country Canada press release. I think he did a great job conserving energy for the final weekend, whereas Sundby worked pretty hard on his own today so it will be interesting to see what he has tomorrow.”
Harvey will race Saturday’s individual 10 k classic, but at this point he is not planning on tackling the Final Climb up the Alpe Cermis. Suffering from a chronic leg issue that is exacerbated by extended steep climbing, Harvey has struggled mightily on the ascent up the alpine slope.