Alex Harvey can walk away from the 2014 Tour de Ski with his head held high. After finishing fifth in the 10 k individual classic on Saturday, Harvey ranked fourth in the overall Tour standings.
Harvey suffers from an issue with his legs that makes skating up steep hills for an extended period of time both painful and debilitating. As such, he will not start the Final Climb on Sunday.
“The leg feels 100% now, but its when I go on steep uphills like that it gets pretty bad,” Harvey told FasterSkier. “Kind of like last year heading into the Tour I knew I wasn’t going to finish. I know I am probably never going to finish the Tour de Ski ever again in my life. It’s not that hard of a decision for me. Even though I am in a good position, I just know that is not good for me to go up that hill with the condition I have.”
“Our focus the whole year has been the Olympics and we don’t want to lose sight of that even though Alex has had an amazing Tour,” Canadian National Team Head Coach Justin Wadsworth said on a conference call.
Wadsworth had no doubt that it is the right decision, and is pleased with how the Tour has gone for the team. But he said that for Harvey and Devon Kershaw, “it is time to recover and prepare for the Olympics.”
Kershaw struggled in the 10 k, placing 52nd in the 63-skier field, just over two minutes behind winner Petter Northug of Norway.
He has had an up-and-down Tour, kicking off the seven stage event by combining with Harvey to finish first and second in the opening prologue. But he has been unable to find consistency, and Wadsworth said Olympic preparation trumps any desire to finish off the Tour.
Harvey ends his run with three podium finishes and two more results in the top-11. His only poor finish was a 40th in the mass start, a performance he attributed in large part to poor skis.
He skied an even race, ranking fifth at each check point and ultimately finished 35.5 seconds behind Northug and just 2.5 seconds ahead of sixth place finisher Hannes Dotzler of Germany.
The lone Canadian who will tackle the Alpe Cermis, Ivan Babikov, finished 27th, +1:17.1.
The result left him in 21st overall, just over a minute out of the top-15.
“Ivan is in good shape,” Wadsworth said. “He has had a couple of solid classic races and he heads into tomorrow in good position.”
Babikov, an excellent skater and one of the premier hill climbers in the world, has won the Tour de Ski Final Climb in the past, and will be on course with the support of his teammates, who will cheer him to the summit.
“We are really excited for Ivan. It is still a day tomorrow where we could get another podium,” Wadsworth said.
— Matt Voisin contributed reporting
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.