Along with the skiers, even the sun seemed tired at the Tour de Ski’s Stage 3 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. With blue sky peeking through unsettled fog at the start of the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit on Sunday, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby continued to make his mark with another stage victory.
After starting with a 1 minute and 18 second head start, Sundby won the pursuit in 21:44.7, and his Norwegian teammate Petter Northug finished second, 1:25.2 back. Also for Norway, Finn Hågen Krogh took third (+1:50.2). Sundby extended his overall lead over Northug to 1:25.2 heading into the next stages of the Tour in Obertsdorf, Germany.
For the North American men, it was another solid day of races: Canada’s Alex Harvey, who started seventh, relinquished two positions, placing ninth on the day, 2:35 behind Sundby. Noah Hoffman continued his roll in the top 30, finishing in 25th (+4:30.1). Another U.S. Ski Team member, Erik Bjornsen skied to 33rd (+5:54.7).
Canada’s Ivan Babikov placed 37th (+6:08.7), Devon Kershaw 41st (+6:46.9) and Len Valjas 68th (+10:23.6). U.S. sprinters Simi Hamilton skied to 69th (+10:27.6), and Andy Newell 76th (+12:23).
Skiing in the leader’s bib, Sundby skied off first, 1:18 ahead of Northug in bib 2. Behind Northug, a slew of skiers began their chase, with the ability to strategically group up and work together.
Harvey started 2:22 back in seventh, one second ahead of Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin, and 11 seconds ahead of Russia’s Evgeniy Belov.
By 2.4 k, Harvey led the Poltoranin-Belov chase group, trying to bridge up to the scattered skiers up front.
About another kilometer later, Cologna, who started 26 seconds behind Harvey, chased Harvey’s group down and joined the mix by 3.2 k. From that point on, the foursome stayed together — not gaining significant time on those ahead, but more importantly, putting nearly a minute into Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug and Russia’s Alexander Legkov, who went on to finish 11th (+3:26.4) and 12th (+3:27.1), respectively.
After finishing in the top 10, Harvey expressed mixed feelings about the day.
“I was happy to hang in that group; we made some time on the chase group behind us so that’s good,” he said in an in-person interview. “I’m happy where I am, but I had a really bad day. Considering that, everything was good.”
Perhaps Harvey’s sensations were a bit dulled. He expressed some concern about his inability to get a good night’s sleep.
“It was really tough today. I didn’t feel like I recovered from yesterday’s 30-kilometer race,” he told Cross Country Canada, according to a press release. “I had a bad night of sleep and just didn’t feel good when I woke up. This was the hardest race of the year for me for sure. Given that, this is a good result.”
Despite feeling off, Harvey kept his mental and physical wits in control.
“I just tried to stay with the group today,” Harvey added. “You have to stay strong physically and mentally. Usually the long 35-kilometer stage is later in the Tour, but this time things get tougher early on. Recovery is important, but staying fit mentally is even more important. There are parts on the course like today where you just have to hang on.”
Harvey heads into Monday’s rest day in ninth overall. Belov is right behind him, a tenth of second back in 10th, with Dyrhaug in 11th, 51.4 seconds behind Harvey. The time back to the overall podium remains in sight for Harvey — third overall skier, Krogh, is 50 seconds ahead of Harvey.
“The good thing is I’m closer in time to the top three than I was when the day started,” Harvey said. “It will be good to have a rest day tomorrow. I’m going to make the most out of that, and be ready for the sprint on Tuesday which will be important to do well.”
Canada’s next top finisher, Babikov said he remains optimistic, but, like others, is feeling the effect of three days of racing. Reflecting on Friday’s sprint (in which he finished 92nd) and Saturday’s 30 k classic mass start (33rd), Babikov burned the candle on both ends.
“The sprint wasn’t good at all. I was fighting off something just a couple days before I didn’t feel good. … I was able to start,” Babikov said. “The 30 k was better yesterday, but coming out from so far back from the sprint, like in the last row, it was heavy traffic. Overtime I got around people but I wasted too much energy. But still I moved up quite a bit and today my skis weren’t that good. Body just felt really tired … There is still more races to go and hopefully I will feel better.”
Kershaw, who placed 41st in the 30 k classic, rebounded a bit.
“Better than yesterday,” he said on Sunday. “I had eight really good kilometers today and then last time up the long climb, I don’t know, I’m just not in my top form. I lost a lot of time in the last 1.7 kilometers. That was disappointing. I had better energy today than yesterday. I had a really really bad yesterday, so I feel a little better anyway.”
Kershaw will head into Tuesday’s classic sprint 41st overall (+7:01.9).
For the U.S. men, Hoffman skied the 17th-fastest time of the day for his second-straight top 30 in 25th, 4:30.1 behind Sundby.
“I had a great group of guys to ski with, and that’s all I was doing was trying to ski with them,” Hoffman said.
Referring to the pace of the pursuit, Hoffman noted a big uptick near the end.
“It started pretty sustainably and that last lap was totally brutal,” he said. “I struggled with the last couple of hills trying to maintain contact.”
Hoffman’s goal of staying in the top-30 hunt remains.
“Staying in the top 30 is good, and I’ve got a recovery day tomorrow which I really need,” he said. “The sprint on Tuesday, which will be something I can use for practice, and then kind of focus on Wednesday’s race. I’m in a position that I can build from for the rest of the tour and that’s where I want to be. Definitely the harder the tour and the more distance stages, the better for me. Recovery is a strong suit of mine, and so I’m optimistic.”
Also feeling the fatigue is Bjornsen. With Saturday’s 30 k in his legs, finishing 33rd in Sunday’s pursuit wasn’t easy.
“I was pretty tired I think. I dug pretty deep yesterday on those last couple of laps. I guess everybody’s tired,” Bjornsen said. “I definitely felt better on the last lap here. I was able to able to pick off a few spots.
“People went charging out, and so I got passed by a lot of people,” he added. “There was a lot of fighting for position, so I was just trying stay relaxed and save some energy for the last lap. I think it worked out. I mean, the 10 k skate is not my favorite event so I figured it was all right.”
Entering the classic sprint, the Tour’s fourth stage, Bjornsen sits 33rd overall (+6:09.7).
“My goal was to just to kind of stay hopefully in the top 40 and then see what can happen in the next few days,” Bjornsen said.
For U.S. veteran Newell, his sights are set on Stage 4: a classic sprint race in Obertsdorf, Germany. Newell raced Sunday’s pursuit with the sprint ahead in mind.
“Today is a race, but it’s also more of like an interval day for me,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’m thinking about when I’m out there skiing. It’s like you know each hill is like an interval, and I try to feel good but not dig, not bury myself too hard. My big focus will be the classic sprint in Oberstdorf. I’ve been looking forward to that race for awhile. It’s been one of my focuses this year.”
Monday is the first of two rest days in the 10-day Tour. Racing resumes on Tuesday in Oberstdorf.
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.