Norway’s Klaebo wins men’s 15-kilometre race at World Cup; Canada’s Harvey 4th

Norway’s Klaebo wins men’s 15-kilometre race at World Cup; Canada’s Harvey 4th

Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, blue leader bib, sprints to the finish to win the Men’s 15 km Classic Mass Start, Saturday, March 18, 2017 at the FIS World Cup cross country finals in Quebec City. Compatriot Niklas Dyrhaug, left, placed second and Russia’s Alexander Bessmertnykh (34) placed third. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC — It wasn’t a victory, but it was another thrilling day on the Plains of Abraham for local star Alex Harvey.

Canada’s top cross-country skier was in the lead group from start to finish and ended up fourth in the 15-kilometre classical style event Saturday at the World Cup finals, a day after winning the sprint race.

“I was hoping for another podium, but I won (Friday) and you can’t win every day,” said Harvey. “It was amazing.

“The crowd was even bigger today. It was a great day all around.”

Thousands of spectators lined the 3.75-kilometre course on a mild, sunny day and their roar followed the native of St. Ferreol Les Neiges north of Quebec City as he battled the dominant Norwegian team up and down the hilly layout in the battlefield memorial park.

A lead group of about a dozen skiers broke into a sprint over the final 100 metres. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, the 20-year-old who is considered Norway’s next cross-country star, won in 35 minutes 23.7 seconds, only half a second ahead of teammate Niklas Dyrhaug. Alexander Bessmertnykh of Russia was third with Harvey in fourth spot, 1.2 seconds off the winner.

The Norwegians also dominated the women’s 10-kilometre event with all-time wins leader Marit Bjoergen edging out teammate Heidi Weng, with Krista Parmokoski of Finland third.

The World Cup finals were originally to be held in Russia, but organizers gave it up when six of their skiers were suspended for doping violations. It was moved to Quebec City where Harvey has made the most of ending the season on home snow.

The three-day meet ends Sunday with pursuit races, where Harvey will be gunning to maintain his third place position in overall World Cup standings against fourth-place Mattu Hakkinen of Finland, who finished 26th. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who has already clinched the overall title, and second-place Russian Sergey Ustiugov, skipped this meet.

Harvey will start third in the pursuit, just after Dyrhaug and 22 seconds after Klaebo.

“It’s a man hunt,” said Harvey. “We’ll see how Klaebo wakes up and how I wake up.”

The 15-km race had a mass start and Harvey made sure to get out with the lead group to avoid bottlenecks and crashes.

The son of Canadian cross country legend Pierre Harvey is looking to match his 2014 performance when he finished third overall. Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., who was second overall in 2012, was the second-best Canadian on the day in 28th place while Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., was 31st.

Earlier on the women’s side, Bjoergen added to her legend by winning a fourth straight 10-kilometre race this season, including a world championship gold medal.

“The track was great, but it is a little bit easy so it’s hard to be fighting in front and leave a gap behind, but it was incredible,” said Bjoergen, who posted her 173rd career World Cup top-three finish — 69 more than second-place Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland.

Bjoergen returned from an 18-month break in November after having her first child and treating a hip injury and won her first race back, also a 10-kilometre classical style, by 10 sends over Weng. The 36-year-old won five medals, including three gold, at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and added three more gold at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“I’m proud of my career,” said the 36-year-old, who plans to retire after the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “It’s been great for many years.

“Since the Olympics in Vancouver it has been incredible. I’m also looking forward to stopping this and starting a new career, but I’m also looking forward to the Olympics next year.”

Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, the top Canadian in 37th spot, called Bjoergen’s accomplishments “phenomenal.

“She’s the best skier there ever was in the world, so to be able to toe the start line with her so many times is pretty cool.”

Cendrine Browne of St. Jerome, Que., was 41st and Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse was 53rd., just ahead of Vancouver’s Annika Richardson.

“It’s the end of the season and I definitely felt the fatigue today,” said Beatty. “Strategically, I positioned myself really well, but the tank was kind of empty and I didn’t have anything left in my arms and legs to execute at the end.

“I ended up getting passed later in the race by quite a few people, but I’m really happy with my season and it was amazing to finish here in Canada.”

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

Categories: Sports
Tags: FIS, quebec city, race, ski

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