Cross-Country

The Associated Press - Friday Jan. 3, 2014 10:20 ET

Alex Harvey 3rd in 35K stage at Tour de Ski

Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby leads after 5 of 7 stages

Alex-Harvey-35K-getty-0309007
Alex Harvey is proving he's among the world's best at the Tour de Ski in Italy. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty)
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Another podium finish for Canadian Alex Harvey on Friday.

Harvey, of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., finished third in the gruelling 35-kilometre freestyle pursuit. The race was fifth of seven stages in the Tour de Ski circuit.

Harvey, 25, started 35 seconds behind leader Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway. He tucked himself into a group of seven athletes, conserving energy for the first 18-kilometre high-speed climb on the mountain pass before the descent into Toblach.

"My plan was to fight for dear life and hang on to that group," said Harvey. "It went a lot easier on the climb than I thought.

"It's a unique race that we only do once a year and you really never know how far in you are. It is a challenge mentally and fun to chase people down and form little groups."

Harvey also won gold in the prologue race at the Tour opener in Oberhof, Germany and was second in the sprint race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. With heavy snow and warm conditions projected for the 10-kilometre classic-ski race in Val di Fiemme, Italy on Saturday, recovery will be critical for the final two stages.

"I'm really happy with how things went," said Harvey, who is third in the overall standings. "Heading into the Tour I was hoping for a few top-five finishes, but to be in the top-three overall the whole way is exciting."

Johnsrud Sundby won the race to increase his overall lead, showing he'll be a medal contender at next month's Sochi Olympics. Sundby posted a time of one hour, 20 minutes, 18.7 seconds.

Compatriot Petter Northug beat Harvey in a sprint for second, finishing 58.2 seconds behind Johnsrud Sundby. Harvey was third, 58.7 behind.

"I tried to keep a steady pace," Sundby said. "Luckily I had a good day and was able to keep the gap."

Still, Harvey registered his 10th career World Cup podium. He has two world championship medals.

Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., was 23rd in 1:23:24.0. Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., finished 28th in 1:23:25.0 despite skiing four of the first five kilometres without a pole.

Sundby moved 1:03.2 ahead of Northug in the overall standings, with Harvey in third, 1:08.7 behind.

In the women's 15-kilometre free pursuit, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen of Norway maintained her overall lead by winning in 37:30.3.

Two-time runner-up Therese Johaug, also of Norway, finished second, 38.7 behind, and Anne Kyllonen of Finland was third, 1:12.2 behind.

In the overall standings, Jacobsen holds a 43.7-second lead over Johaug, with Kyllonen 1:22.2 behind in third.

The Tour concludes over the weekend in Val di Fiemme, highlighted by the traditional climb up Mount Cermis on Sunday.

"I still hold (Johaug) as the favourite with her climbing ability for the final stages," Jacobsen said. "But my shape is getting better and better and I feel like I'm on track for the Olympic Games, which is the most important thing."

The cross-country skiing competition at the Sochi Olympics start Feb. 8.

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