Canada’s Alex Harvey notched his second top-10 finish in a weekend of World Cup racing in Rybinsk, Russia, leading all North American men by taking ninth in Sunday’s 30-kilometer skiathlon. He finished 16.0 seconds behind winner Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia (1:21:54).
Harvey said in a phone interview that the 15 k classic portion was fast and challenging, as a contingent of young Russian skiers fought to position themselves in the font of the pack.
“There was a lot of stress in the pack,” he said.
Harvey explained that he crashed five times in the classic portion: three times with Russian Alexey Vitsenko, once with Dario Cologna of Switzerland, and another time with Russian Evgeniy Belov.
“My goal was to kind of stay relaxed and save energy but that’s not exactly what I did … I had to move to the back of the pack again and again and again,” Harvey explained.
However, Harvey maintained contact with the leaders and was 13th after the classic portion, just 4.7 seconds behind 15 k leader Stanislav Volzhentsev of Russia (42:54.5).
The leaders established a slower pace at the start of the 15 k skate portion, which allowed Harvey’s legs to recover.
“It was super slow the whole time until near the end, on the second-to-last lap. That’s when Cologna and [Finland’s Matti] Heikkinen went … and then they kept pushing the whole way,” Harvey explained.
He said Cologna and Heikkenen opened up a gap of “five-to-ten seconds” while he was sitting in fifth. The pack was not chasing, so Harvey decided to take on the chase himself, and was in third position going into the last lap.
“But then I paid for it,” Harvey said. “I slipped from third to ninth. My legs blew up a bit in the end, but still the top 10 is always a good result. That’s what I’m aiming for every time I put a bib on.”
Harvey said it was an especially good result when considering he was one of the few skiers to do all three races in Rybinsk. He was 10th in Friday’s 15 k freestyle individual start and 28th overall in Saturday’s 1.3 k freestyle sprint.
“For sure, after three races there was fatigue in the body,” Harvey said.
Teammate Ivan Babikov used a strong skate portion to finish in 19th (+31.5) after completing the classic portion in 29th, 41.9 seconds behind Volzhentsev.
“I struggled a bit in classic … I got stuck behind some skiers crashing and after the second time I wasn’t strong enough to breach that gap between our group and main pack,” Babikov wrote in an email.
Babikov explained that he was able to position himself in the leading group during the skate portion, but expended too much energy doing so, and struggled during the last lap while finishing in the back of the leading group.
However, he wrote that he was still happy with the 19th-place result.
Devon Kershaw was 20th after the classic portion and just 8.3 seconds behind Volzhentsev, but wrote in an email that he had a rough skate on his was to a 34th-place finish (+1:35.2)
He wrote that most of the skiers stayed close together in the classic portion, which made things messy and unpredictable.
“There were lots of falls … sketchiness all around, really,” Kershaw wrote.
He explained that despite the messiness he still felt good and was able to stay out of trouble, and skied as relaxed as he could in order to save energy for the skate.
“In the skate portion the first 2.5 k was okay, but then it was rough. My calves cramped pretty badly, which was awful, and then I yo-yoed off the back of the big lead group for four laps before finally getting dropped with about 4-5 k to go,” he wrote.
Kershaw explained that not being able to ski with the big group during the final laps of the skate, along with the wind blowing through the stadium, did not help his position.
“Today’s result was disappointing. But today there were some positives … so I’ll take those with me moving forward,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Canadian Graeme Killick ended up 40th (+2:36.3). He was 31st (+44.2) after the classic portion.
During a break in World Cup racing until Feb. 14, The Canadian team will head to Livigno, Italy, for 10 days of training, followed by another 10 days in Seiser Alm, Italy.
“It’s going to be a lot of volume; a lot of three-plus hour skis at altitude to get more efficient at altitude and be in really good shape for World Champs in Falun,” Harvey said.
Note: This article was updated to reflect that Matti Heikkinen is of Finland, not Russia.