Canada's Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw clawed their way into fifth place on Friday in a World Cup skate-ski team sprint race on home snow in Quebec City.
The Canadians led the fastest 10 teams into the head-to-head finals after winning their semifinal heat, but Harvey spun out of control after Swedish sprint star Emil Joensson caught an edge on the soft snow just ahead of him.
"I knew right there it was done. When your hand touches the snow in sprint racing the gap is just too big to make up," said Harvey, from St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que. "That is sprint racing. The Swedes are two of the best out here and you never would expect him to go down, but there is nothing you can do. You need to find your luck in sprinting."
Skiers had to complete three legs each, skiing twice around the 800-metre track (6 x 1.6 kilometres), loaded with steady climbs, tight corners, bridges and one of the first jumps ever to be thrown into a sprint race.
Harvey recovered from the accident and closed the sizable gap, chalking up the second fifth-place finish of the season for the two Canucks.
"There is a lot of big guys out here racing with not much space, and there is a lot of knocking around that goes on, so crashes happen," said Kershaw, from Sudbury, Ont. "Everyone out here wants to win, but we really wanted to win today. It is too bad, but you just can't go down in sprinting."
Toronto's Lenny Valjas, who is battling a hand injury, powered through any pain to post a top-10 finish of his own while teaming up with Jesse Cockney of Canmore, Alta. The two 24-year-old Canucks advanced into the finals after a fast opening heat, but could not keep pace.
"The snow was really soft so it separated the pack. It is a fun course that makes you work the whole way," said Valjas. "It was so loud out there. Especially going around the corners you could hear people screaming in your ear."
The Kazakhstan team of Denis Volotka and Nikolay Chebotko won the men's race. Russia's Nikita Kriukov and Alexey Petukhov skied to the silver medal, while Norway's Anders Gloeersen and Eirik Bransdal captured the bronze medal.
Calgary's Brent McMurtry and Phil Widmer of Banff, Alta., were 20th. Russell Kennedy of Canmore and Alexis Turgeon of Gatineau, Que., were 23rd.
In women's competition, Americans Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins won the team sprint. Germany's Hanna Kolb and Denise Herrmann were second, while Norway's Celine Brun-Lie and Maiken Caspersen Falla settled for the bronze.
No Canadian women advanced to the finals. Olympic champion, Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta., and Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., were the top Canadians in 17th.
Banff's Heidi Widmer and Alysson Marshall of Salmon Arm, B.C., were 19th. Canmore's Kate Brennan and Andrea Dupont of Timmins, Ont., finished 20th. Maya Macissac-Jones of Athabasca, Alta., and Canmore's Zoe Roy placed 23rd.