LAHTI, Fin.—Alex Harvey was crowned the King of cross-country skiing after winning the prestigious men’s 50-kilometre skate cross-country skiing event to close out the 2017 World Championships in Lahti, Finland on Sunday.
“This is amazing. When I won the 15 kilometre classic race in Ulriceham I said it was the "man's race," but this is the real man's race winning the 50 kilometre. It is the greatest race of my life,” said Harvey.
The 28-year-old Harvey exercised his race tactics to perfection while clocking a winning time of one hour, 46 minutes, 28.9 seconds in the Nordic marathon.
“It was a perfect day for me. The conditions were so fast and I knew that would play into my favour. I was fighting to stay near the front and out of trouble most of the way. I was just hoping to put myself in second position at the final Lahti corner. I had amazing skis today so I knew that if I hit that corner in second place I had a good chance,” said Harvey, who also has two World Cup victories to go along with two bronze medals this year.
“My skis were really fast and I was able to slingshot perfectly around that corner and then it was mine to lose.”
Pumping his fist across the finish line followed by playing air guitar Nordic style, which is tradition for the Canadian team each time they ski to the podium, Harvey topped Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov who finished in second spot at 1:46:29.5. Finland’s Matti Heikkinen won the race for the bronze medal with a time of 1:46:30.3.
Pegging the 50 kilometre on the calendar as his race to win heading into the week, Harvey of Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., delievered.
In complete control and relaxed from start-to-finish skiing, the two-time Olympian skied comfortably with the lead pack down the Nordic highways. Balancing his time leading the pace and tucking in behind a handful of the world’s best skiers in the leaders, Harvey was content in the front until the final two kilometres where he and Ustigov pushed the pace. With the lead group jostling for position, Harvey tucked into the number two spot in the final decent into Lahti Stadium where he shot into the lead, and double-poled and skated relentlessly down the finishing stretch to the top step of the podium.
“It is unreal right now. I just wanted to stay out of trouble and not break any poles or skis. The last five kilometres you have to fight with everything you got and keep focus because that is when the energy is low. I was able to do that today,” said Harvey.
It was the second World Championship gold medal for Harvey, and first individual at the premiere international race in a non-Olympic year. He and Devon Kershaw first rocked the Nordic world in 2011 when they won the World Championship team sprint at the birthplace of the sport in Oslo, Norway.
Harvey now has an unprecedented five World Championship medals in four different race distances in both classic- and skate-skiing techniques. He also has 21 World Cup podium finishes to his storied career. His first individual World Cup medal also came in the 50-kilometre classic-ski race when he won the bronze in Trondheim Norway in 2009 – just weeks after his World Cup breakthrough with teammate George Grey when they won the bronze in a team sprint in Whistler, B.C.
“This is the biggest race in cross-country skiing,” said Harvey. “It was so tough and fast out there. You need to have fast skis, great tactics, a bit of luck and some magic. Today I had the magic.”
Three other Canadians were also on the start line in the final event of the 2017 World Champs. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., finished 38th at 1:52:14.4; Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., was 43rd (1:53:32.9); and Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, placed 55th (1:58:32.2).
The Canadian squad now travels to Oslo, Norway for the final two World Cup races before coming home for the World Cup Finals in Quebec City, March 17-19.
CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Mackenzie Investments, Swix and Lanctôt Sports– along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.