Alex Harvey’s plan to work with Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug may have slowed him down in Thursday’s Tour de Ski 25-kilometer freestyle pursuit, but he was still 0.4 seconds fast enough to jump Switzerland’s Dario Cologna in the Tour standings and improve from seventh to sixth overall.
The Canadian is now sixth overall, 2:01.0 minutes behind leader Petter Northug of Norway. He finished Thursday’s pursuit in sixth, 1:46.0 minutes behind Northug (53:36.9), and had the 21st fastest time on the course – five laps around a 5 k loop – in 54:35.1. However, Dyrhaug edged him out at the finish line by 0.1 seconds to take fifth.
“I’m happy with the results but time-wise I’m a bit disappointed by the other guys in the group,” Harvey said in a phone interview.
He explained that Dyrhaug – who started the day eighth overall – approached him before the race and said he wanted to work together to catch Cologna. Harvey agreed, but Dyrhaug set a slow pace from the start, and he estimated they quickly lost 10 seconds to Cologna.
However, he said the pace finally quickened when Sweden’s Daniel Richardsson caught up to them.
“Richardsson had a really good day so when he caught up to us, him and I could work well to close the gap. By then it was maybe up to 30 seconds to Dario, but we could work well, and I think Dario was starting to fade a little bit,” Harvey said.
At that point, Harvey knew the top-four skiers were too far ahead to be caught, so the race turned into a battle between him, Richardsson, Cologna, Dyrhaug, and Kazahstan’s Alexey Poltoranin for fifth.
Harvey said no one was willing to take a big pull, and the group ended up sitting.
“We [Richardsson and I] saw that Dario and Dyrhaug were sitting, so we didn’t want one of them to attack right after we took a big pull and get dropped. So when not that many people are trying to work, people get pretty pissed, and I guess that was what was going on,” Harvey explained.
The results was a final charge for fifth among the five racers, with Dyrhaug taking it by a fraction of a second.
“I think we could have skied probably 45 seconds to a minute faster if Dario, Daniel, Niklas, and I really pushed,” Harvey said. Dyrhaug – who Harvey said he has a “good relationship” with – went up to him after the race and apologized for not pulling, according to Harvey.
Despite his frustrations with the speed, Harvey said the course was fairly fast.
“Every 5 k I would throw in maybe four or five offsets – on climbs I can skate in that technique – so everything else was one skate or two skate. It was pretty fast snow,” he said.
Harvey will race in the 15 k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Saturday, but will forgo Sunday’s final stage, a 9 k freestyle pursuit. This will be the third year in a row he will skip the final stage of the Tour.
However, he thinks he has a shot at the podium on Saturday.
“I’ve had really good races in the past in Val di Fiemme … It’s a race that I’ve done well in the past, and the classic this year has been feeling really good, and today because we didn’t push so hard I’m not really tired,” he explained.
Two other Canadian men competed in the pursuit. Devon Kershaw started the day in 29th but improved to 25th (+4:11.0), while Ivan Babikov started and finished in 31st (+4:13.9). Babikov also had the 23rd fastest race of the day, with a time of 54:39.2.
The three American men withdrew from the Tour after Wednesday’s 10 k.
Tour de Ski overall standings