But after SkiTrax caught up with him by phone outside Quebec City following the recent team press conference, it’s clear that Harvey has no intention of doing so. When his World Cup rivals take to the start line at the first FIS World Cup race of the 2011-12 season in Beitostolen (NOR) just under three weeks from now, they will find Harvey, a world champion, more motivated than ever to come out on top.
The son of the legendary Pierre Harvey wracked up an impressive list of achievements last season, establishing himself as a podium threat just about every time he strapped on his skis. After a couple of shaky World Cup starts in Kuusamo and Gallivare before Christmas, Harvey began showing his true form starting with last year’s Tour De Ski – he recorded four top-10 finishes and placed 10th overall in the grueling 10-day event.
Together with his teammate Kershaw – who won his first WCup gold in Toblach, Italy (Stage 5) and placed 7th overall – Harvey was in the mix or near the front in just about every stage of this daunting event modeled after the Tour de France.
A few weeks later Harvey put in a stellar effort at the U23 Nordic World Championships in Otepaa (EST) where, with the exception of Russia’s Evgeniy Belov, no one could match his gold-medal winning pace in the Men’s 30km Pursuit. Then in February he notched his best World Cup result to date, a close 2nd place finish to Sweden’s Emil Joenssen in a sprint event in Drammen (NOR).
But it was at Oslo 2011, in Norway’s famed Holmenkollen stadium, that Harvey revealed the form, ambition and confidence that made him a persistent threat in every race. After posting a solid 7th place in the Sprint event, Harvey sent a message in the 30km Pursuit race when he gapped the field and skied solo at the front until the closing few kilometres, where he was stricken with leg cramps and had to settle for a respectable 12th.
More was coming for fans worldwide and by far his best and most gratifying race, came in the Team Sprint. Skiing the anchor leg for Canada, with Kershaw as his teammate, Harvey out-sprinted Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattestad for the gold medal, stunning the boisterous and partisan throng of Norwegian fans. Proving his strength as an all-around contender, Harvey went on to finish 5th in the 50km race as well, on what is widely viewed as the toughest race course on the planet.
While Harvey can look back with pride on many of his feats from last season, his Nordic World Championship victory stands apart as the season highlight. To win Canada’s first ever World Championship gold medal in cross-country skiing, and to do it in the birthplace of skiing in front of the huge and enthusiastic crowds at the Holmenkollen was a dream come true.
Sharing the victory with his teammate, Devon Kershaw, while representing Canada, made the victory that much sweeter. “Winning with a partner, winning for our country, for Team Canada, was just amazing,” Harvey told SkiTrax. The victory in this particular event, against a world class field, also helped erase some of the painful memories left over from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, where Harvey and Kershaw placed 4th in the Team Sprint event.
The Oslo victory was “redemption for sure,” added Harvey, “Since the last day of the 2010 season, we had been thinking about and looking forward to the Oslo World Championships – we really were going for a medal that day. After Vancouver we wanted that medal pretty bad!” Small wonder the two erupted into their now famous air guitar victory celebration at the finish line in Oslo!
Our conversation then turned to training this past summer and Harvey’s preparations for the 2011-12 season. He explained that his dryland training has gone according to plan, with no interruptions due to illness or injury. He has increased his training volume slightly to about 800 hours, up from 755 last year, in keeping with his age and training base.
While his coaches, Louis Bouchard and Justin Wadsworth, have made no major changes to his overall plan, Harvey says his program, along with that of his teammates, placed more emphasis on uphill skating and striding than in previous years, reflecting the importance of climbing ability in events like the Tour de Ski.
“Pretty much all of our camps this year were for doing uphill training,” he continued. With this year’s Tour de Ski serving as the de facto World Championships, Harvey wants to make sure he doesn’t lose ground on the final climb up Alpe Cermis like he did last year, where he fell from 7th to 10th overall in the final few kilometres.
Asked about his goals for the coming season, Harvey has his sights set on placing higher in the overall World Cup standings than last year’s 10th place overall. Doing so will depend on his ability to race with more consistency than he has in past seasons. “My goal is to score points in every race, and hopefully a lot of them,” he said.
Harvey also identified the Tour de Ski as key to overall World Cup success, given the number of World Cup points available during the event. “To be good in the overall you need to be good in the Tour … there are a lot of races, 9 stages, with 50 points available every day and then 400 points for the overall, so it’s a big event for points”. With that in mind Harvey declared, “I’ll try to be at my peak for the Tour de Ski”. Harvey has other unfinished business on the World Cup circuit. “I’ve never won individually either a World Cup or a World Championships, so I want to win individually as well.”
“I’ve never really felt pressure coming from anyone except myself. I put a lot of pressure on my self every day, every workout, every session… I really want to achieve specific things every day and improve, so there’s a lot of pressure coming from myself. Pressure from the outside, I ignore all of that. I don’t really care what people say on the outside, I know what I want to do, what I will do.”
And if his World Cup rivals were counting on last year’s World Championship gold to dampen Harvey’s motivation to compete, they will be disappointed. “I’ve tasted [victory] once and I want to taste it more and more.”
Look for Canada’s Harvey to attack off the front more often this season – then it will up to the field to see if they can catch him.