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Canada’s Harvey Takes Silver in 15km F Pursuit and 3rd Overall in World Cup as Klaebo Wins Quebec City Mini Tour – USA’s Bjornsen 11th Fastest

by Laura Robinson
Alex Harvey [P] Nordic Focus
March 19, 2017 (Quebec City, Que.) – Fans were on the edge of their seats as Canada’s Alex Harvey raced to the finish of the final event of the season the 15km Freestyle Pursuit, battling two Norwegians Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Niklas Dyrhaug to claim silver in a photo finish climax at the end of a storybook weekend of racing in Quebec City.

Klaebo, Dyrhaug, Harvey at the finish [P] Nordic Focus
Klaebo won by boot toe in a becoming the youngest winner of a mini tour as well with Harvey second and Dyrhaug third as 40,000 fans gathered on the Plains of Abraham amidst stunning sunny weather for the final World Cup race of the season and the grand finale finish to the weekend.

Harvey, Dyrhaug, Klaebo Photo finish [P] FIS

Harvey’s silver-medal finish on the final day and performance all weekend secured him second place in the Quebec City mini-series and maintained his third place rankings in the men’s FIS overall standings. Klaebo also picked up the U23 World Cup Crystal Globe adding more lustre to his season.

Men's final podium (l-r) Harvey 2nd, Klaebo 1st, Dyrhaug 3rd [P] Reese Brown
“I was on really good skis and it was a really good day,” said Harvey. “I came into this mini-tour in Quebec wanting to hold onto third overall. I didn’t think I would be able to have a win and finish second and separate myself from the rest. I was just hoping to fight for the top-three in the overall, but I was really focused. Third overall means a lot to me, but also to the whole team (Harvey also claimed 2nd overall in the Distance standings).

Harvey with his medal for 3rd overall in the World Cup rankings and 2nd overall in the Distance series [P] Reese Brown

“It was a good feeling to be able to close 23 seconds on Klaebo so fast. I did the work on that first lap. I expected it. They didn’t pull at all – that’s part of the game,” continued Harvey, whose first-lap pace was too much for Norway’s Finn Haagen Krogh, in fourth at the start.

A dog decides to join the leaders [P] Nordic Focus
“Anytime you can make one of the best skiers in the world blow up is a great feeling. As soon as I saw Finn Haagen Krogh blew I up I knew I was going to be on the podium,” he added.

Krogh who faded to 70th was suddenly replaced by a dog who came out of nowhere and wanted to play tag with the three skiers. “That was crazy,” said Dyrhaug after the race. “It was dangerous.” Harvey commented that dogs had darted out in the middle of bike races but he’d never seen one on a ski course. “Luckily no one crashed,” said Harvey.

Harvey, Klaebo, Dyrhaug [P] Reese Brown
Klaebo said he had to shelve his original tactic after he saw what Harvey and Dyrhaug were up to. “My first plan was to go from the start but I knew after the first lap I would wait for them. It was difficult because it was the first time I’ve been in that situation. It’s very easy to go a bit too fast and then you have nothing at the end.”

He added that Quebec City was a great mini tour. “It’s cool to be able to win here in Quebec. I like the course, there’s a lot of ups and downs. The way they organized it as a World Cup – it’s cool. It’s amazing to go with Harvey. But I’m also really happy the season is over and looking forward to going home.”

During the race, it was obvious Harvey was not going to let Klaebo ski away from him on home territory, but Dyrhaug made it clear that he was not going to do any pre-race strategizing with Harvey. “If I want to help Alex, I would get in a lot of trouble with the rest of the Norwegians,” he quipped with typical understated Scandinavian humour.

With the three leaders away the reference to cycling was not lost. “Nobody wanted to be at the front at the top of the last climb,”Harvey explained afterwards. “It was kind of like cycling. If I went to the front, they could slingshot by me. I really wanted to be in second place when we got to that point. I had to position myself, and luckily I was able to do that.”

Harvey, Klaebo, Dyrhaug [P] Reese Brown
Meanwhile the chase group behind led by Marcus Hellner (Swe) and Dario Cologna (Sui) was gaining on the trio and the gap had diminished to under 25 seconds. A number of skiers in that group would have been delighted to contest the sprint.

Dyrhaug agreed with Harvey. “Nobody wanted to start first on this downhill because you can be attacked from behind,” shared Dyrhaug about their sudden stop, which actually looked like a track stand on a velodrome. Dyrhaug added that, despite the incredibly fast pace Harvey and he set in their first 8km, the race was also very tactical. “There were a lot of attacks and it was an exciting race to be part of. I had my tactics, Johannes had his and Alex had his. It was a really cool fight. In the end I thought I should take it but twenty metres from the finishline, they came from both sides.”

Harvey knew he’d be on the podium barring any unexpected circumstances and hearing his name chanted by the crowd spurred him on. “It was really fun – quite the race. It’s rare that I have known mid-way through a race that the worse I could do would still put me on the podium – it was great to know it was in the bank. I knew I could gain 23 seconds and catch Johannes, but Klaebo is the best sprinter in the world. He has the crystal globe at home. I lunged with everything I had so there is nothing to be ashamed of. I knew I was going to be second or first. It’s been a really good day and I have really good skis.”

For a change on the World Cup circuit, Harvey was home, and what a homecoming he received. His name reverberated through the crowds as he and the Norwegians flew around the track to end the season.

Bjornsen [P] Reese Brown

American skier Erik Bjornsen was the next best North American at 25th at 2:19 minutes back, but when his start time was subtracted from Klaebo’s, he had the 11th fastest time of the day –  something he couldn’t stop smiling about. “It’s crazy. I never would have thought this, but I was with a strong group. I was in the lead for a little bit, and with a kilometer and a half to go I tried to get into position.

“Eleventh on time of the day – definitely that’s my best result. I felt like I was flying for the first lap. There were fast guys, Heikkinen, Kershaw, Andrew Young. It was so fun but it was so weird.” Bjornsen said he was worried he might not have the legs for the whole race, “But luckily I felt like I was racing well.”

Kershaw and Bjornsen [P] Reese Brown
Canada’s Devon Kershaw was 26th at 2:21 minutes back, but wasn’t as enthusiastic even though he had a top 30 finish. “I’m not super thrilled – I did what I could. Unfortunately I got stuck in a big group when a break happened, so I was hoping for more.”

Kershaw plans on contesting for a spot on the 2018 Olympic team. If he makes it, it will be his fourth Olympic Games. “An Olympic medal is all the team is missing at this point. It’s a tall order for me but I’m ready to support Alex who’s ready to take that step.”

Patterson [P] Reese Brown
The start line was packed with Canadian and US skiers something both teams were excited about and want to see more of in the years to come. Top 50 finishers included USA’s Scott Patterson in 41st (at 3:45:6 minutes), Canada’s Graeme Killick 42nd (3:45:9 minutes), USA’s David Norris (4:15:9 minutes), Andrew Newell 44th (4:23:0 minutes), Simeon Hamilton 45th (4:23:4 minutes), Patrick Caldwell 46th (4:25:6 minutes), Mathew Phillip Gelso 49th (4:32:3 minutes).

Killick [P] Reese Brown

The Canadians head straight to Canmore, Alta. where the National Championships have already commenced while the Americans end their North American season at the SuperTour in Alaska at the end of March.

Pursuit results here.
Fastest of the day here.
Overall WCup standings here.

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