Alex Harvey dropped a rung in the Ski Tour Canada on Tuesday. The good news, says his coach, is there's opportunity for Canada's cross-country ski star to regain ground.
Harvey was eliminated in the quarter-final round of Tuesday's classic sprint in Canmore, Alta. The sprint was the fifth of eight races in the Ski Tour Canada, which opened last week with four races in Quebec.
Harvey dropped from fourth to fifth in the tour's overall ranking.
The 27-year-old from Saint-Ferreol-Les-Neiges, Que., did not speak to media after his race, but his body language spoke volumes. Harvey gesticulated angrily at team support staff after finishing fifth in his heat.
The Ski Tour Canada concludes Saturday at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Of the three races remaining, the 30-kilometre skiathlon Wednesday is the swing race of the circuit for the men, according to Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth.
'Crux of the whole tour'
"Tomorrow is going to be the real crux of the whole tour," Wadsworth said. "Tomorrow you could lose a minute, two minutes if you're not feeling in your top shape."
"[Alex] will lose a little time today, but in the overall picture, with three hard races left, he'll be fine. He's a rock. He'll be ready tomorrow and he'll be mad. He'll use that energy in a good way. When the pressure and the big races come, he's always ready."
Sergey Ustiugov of Russia retained the overall lead 19.5 seconds ahead of Petter Northug Jr. of Norway, and one minute 10 seconds up on Norway's Emil Iversen.
The Norwegians' teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby overtook Harvey, who placed 21st in the sprint and was 2:36 behind the Ustiugov.
"Very disappointed with today's result, even more so because I lost ground on the ones I am chasing," was Harvey's statement through a Cross Country Canada spokesperson.
Harvey placed second and fourth in Quebec City races last week. He arrived in Canmore less than a minute out of a podium position.
Frederico Pellegrino of Italy won the men's sprint with Norwegian Eirik Brandsdal finishing second and Frenchman Maurice Manificat third.
Northug Jr. reached the men's final, but cruised well back of the pack to save himself for Wednesday's marathon.
Toronto's Len Valjas got as far as the semifinal and was 11th for the host team's best result of the day.
'Today was awesome:' Valjas
The six-foot-six skier, whose sister Kristina is currently competing in an Olympic beach volleyball test event in Rio, was pleased with his result. Valjas had lost a week of training prior to the Ski Tour Canada because of a respiratory ailment.
"This was a dream come true to get back in the semi for the second time this year, back here at home," he said. "I have my parents here. It's hot, it's sunny, this is classic skiing. Everything about today was awesome."
His day came to an end after crossing the line fifth in his 1.5-kilometre semifinal trip around the world-renowned Nordic venue that is playing host to the final four stages of the inaugural eight-race Ski Tour Canada.
"I used a similar tactic to sit at the back of both heats. On the second climb I just emptied the tank and would use the downhill to attack on the final sprint finish. In the quarter it all worked out to perfection, but the semifinal I had nothing left. One extra push at the top of the hill can mean separating yourself 15 metres from the pack on the downhill. I did everything I could, and am thrilled to get this result in before the end of the year."
Norwegian women sweep
Norwegian women dominated both the day and the tour. Maiken Caspersen Falla, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Ingvid Flugstad Oestberg swept the podium Tuesday.
Teammates Heidi Weng and Therese Johaug remained first and second in the women's overall standings with Tuesday's medallists rounding out the top five.
Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse was the lone Canadian woman advancing out of morning qualifying. The 22-year-old was ousted in her quarter-final and placed 15th despite injuring her back in the second race of the series in Montreal.
One day after celebrating her 22nd birthday, Beatty not only qualified for the heats for the first time at a World Cup, but came agonizingly close to securing one of two lucky loser spots in the semifinals.
Matched up on the start line against many of the biggest names in the sport, the Whitehorse resident was grinning from ear-to-ear following a career-best 15th place finish against the cream-of-the-crop in cross-country skiing.
"I had a lot of energy. The coaches said to just race and don't be afraid to go to the front. I found myself up at the front at the beginning. Those top three girls caught back up at the top of the climb, but I just kept pushing hard," said Beatty.
"It's by far my best result ever," Beatty said. "I think it will give me a little bit more confidence going into tomorrow, but it won't change too much my tactics tomorrow.
"If I can keep the good feeling I have today, I might be able to surprise myself."