(Note: This race rundown has been updated with comments from Canadian World Cup Team member Alex Harvey.)
– While it wasn’t an International Ski Federation (FIS) race, Canada’s Alex Harvey won a classic sprint in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, posting the fourth-fastest time out of 34 men in the prologue, then reaching the final in the King’s-Court-style heats. In the final, he nipped Swiss runner-up Jovian Hediger at the line and bested Swiss national-team favorite Dario Cologna, who placed third, by 2 seconds. Erwan Käser, also of Switzerland, rounded out the four-man final in fourth, finishing 3 seconds after Harvey.
“I’ve been working a lot of the Summer to get my sprint level back,” Harvey wrote in an email. “Especially in classic and double poling, which is an area I feel used to be one of my strengths but that I struggled in last season.”
The qualifier took place early in the morning, making it “hard to get the body firing up on all cylinders with jet lag and all but it was still a pretty decent effort,” he added.
In his first time racing a King’s Court format (which guarantees each racer more heats), he noted that it was pretty fun. In the quarterfinal, he raced against the top-three qualifiers — Hediger, Cologna and Käser — and led them for most of the second half of the heat.
“But [the course] kind of finished with a little 180° turn and then a short steep uphill and Jovian opted to run outside the track there and just blew by me!” Harvey recalled. “In the semi, kind of the same deal but with Josef Wenzl [of Germany] in there instead of Dario. I lead for the 2nd half and Jovian, once again, bested me on the last little pitch. That’s when I realized why he was going so much faster then me…by just runing outside the track.”
In the final Harvey took the lead at the halfway point but changed his strategy for the final hill. This time, he ran outside the track and kept his lead all the way to the finish.
“Overall it’s a good day at the office,” Harvey wrote, noting this his biggest goal was to “dial” his race-morning routing.
“I think I can do better for how I prepare for the qualifier but otherwise I’m right on point,” he wrote.
On the women’s side, Canadian-born Swiss skier Heidi Widmer finished eighth overall after posting the 11th-ranked time in the prologue earlier in the day. Switzerland’s Laurien van der Graaff topped the women’s field of 23, qualifying first then dominating the final ahead of teammate Nadine Fähndrich, who placed second (+2.0), Germany’s Elisabeth Schicho in third (+7.0), and Rachel Imoberdorf (Switzerland) in fourth (+12.0).
Harvey noted he was impressed by the organization of the small race.
“It was like a normal race with a team meeting in the evening, bibs, electronic chip timing, starting gate and everything running on schedule by the minute (this part is to be expected in Switzerland!),” he wrote.
Asked what brought him and his Pierre-Harvey Training Centre teammate (and Canadian U25 Team member) Cendrine Browne and coach Louis Bouchard to Davos, Harvey explained that’s been a longtime plan. For the last several years, they had intended to spend their first 10 days in Europe in Davos, but had to change their plans the last two years because of low snow.
“In the Fall of 2013 (during Sochi Olympic year) I was here for 10 days with Louis and Devon [Kershaw] and we really liked it,” he wrote. “[There is] more natural light so a bit easier to get over jet lag and the 10-day exposure at this altitude made a nice link after the 2 other 3 week altitude camp we had this summer.”
Harvey has historically struggled in Davos, keeping him out of the top 15 in distance races there, except for his ninth place in a 2011 skate sprint.
“It’s clearly one of the worst stop on Tour for me,” he wrote. “I really think the altitude is a big part of the reason. So this year when Christian Flury, a coach on the Swiss team, told Louis that they could guarantee 4-5km by Nov. 1st, we opted for this plan again and were pretty confident that this time we wouldn’t have to change our travel plan the week before coming here like we had to do in the Fall of 2014 and 2015.”
On Friday night, he skied the bottom of the World Cup course (the “snow farming” zone takes place up top). It had grown from 4 k when the Canadians arrived to the complete 7.5 k World Cup course.
“Plus the golf course in the bottom of the valley is packed and rolled so you can skate there — I skied all the way to the base of Sertig a few days ago, that made for a nice longer loop!” Harvey wrote.
– Ida Sargent and Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project continued their tour of Finland, racing in the Saariselkä FIS races in a mountainous region of northern Finland. There, Sargent (also a U.S. Ski Team member) placed 19th and Patterson (the overall U.S. SuperTour winner last season) was 23rd in the 5 k classic, finishing roughly 1 minute and 1:07 behind the winner, Russia’s Yulia Tchekaleva. Clocking in at 18:30.4, Tchekaleva beat out a women’s field of 76 and led a Russian sweep of the top three, with Yulia Belorukova in second (+3.1) and Alisa Zhambalova in third (+10.2).
In an email on Thursday, the day before the 5 k, Patterson noted the darkness in Saariselkä and that it had been overcast and snowing the last few days.
“There’s maybe 5-6″ of natural snow to make everything feel wintry, and then the ski trails have a solid base of man-made snow,” she wrote. “It looks like for these races coming up the course is going to include a brutal herringbone pitch up part of a small downhill mountain, but then there are also some really nice stride-able hills. And there are tons of Russians and Belorussians, as well as quite a few Germans, Japanese, and a few others on the start list. It’s an exciting time, to be back in the thick of racing!”
In the men’s 10 k classic, Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin took the win in 28:20.8, edging his teammate Stanislav Volzhentsev by 2.7 seconds. Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin took third (+3.3) in a field of 99 finishers.
– In Bruksvallarna, Sweden, 19-year-old Ebba Andersson, of the Swedish club Sellefteaa Skidor, pulled out a victory in the women’s 5 k freestyle in 14:24.9. In Sweden’s first FIS race of the season, she fended off World Cup regulars Hannah Falk by 0.9 seconds, Stina Nilsson by 13.1 seconds, and Anna Haag by 20.8 seconds (who placed second through fourth, respectively). Ninety-six women finished.
In the men’s 10 k freestyle, Sweden’s Marcus Hellner opened his season with a 48.7-second win over runner-up Axel Ekström, who’s nearly a decade younger. Hellner, who turns 31 next Friday, finished in 24:46.3, Ekström took second, and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic placed third (+49.8). The men’s field included 249 finishers, making it the biggest FIS race of several taking place around the world on Friday.
– FasterSkier was on site for Norway’s first FIS races of the season in Beitostølen. Check out Friday’s race report, complete with comments from American Cambria McDermott and Canadians Madison Fraser, Jack Carlyle, Ryan Jackson, and Joey Foster.