Cross-Country

CBC Sports - Saturday Dec. 28, 2013 11:20 ET

Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw win historic gold, silver at Tour de Ski

Canadians take top 2 spots at prestigious cross-country event

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Canadian Alex Harvey celebrates after winning in the men’s prologue 4.5 kilometre free individual event at the Viessmann cross country World Cup event on Saturday in Oberhof, Germany. (Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

Alex Harvey shrugged off a broken ski and difficult conditions to win the 4.5-kilometre freestyle prologue for the Tour de Ski on Saturday, beating Canadian teammate Devon Kershaw by 4.1 seconds.

The Canadian duo not only got off to their best-ever start at the eighth-annual Tour de Ski by winning the gold and silver medal, but it is the first time Canada has finished one-two at an elite international cross-country skiing event.

Harvey, 25, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., captured the first title of the seven-race Tour through Europe with a time of nine minutes, 3.4 seconds, while Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., clocked a second-place time of 9:07.5 in Oberhof, Germany.

Harvey, battling fog, overcame a broken right ski early in the race and was given a replacement from his team.

Norway’ Chris Jespersen earned third place with a time of 9:13.6.

“It feels so good to be back on the podium after a slower start to the season,” said Harvey. “My training has felt good, but I have not been able to confirm those good feelings during the races this year. To do that today is a huge relief for me and the entire program.”

It was the second World Cup victory for Harvey to go with his world championship title with Kershaw when they also became the first Canucks to stand on top of the cross-country skiing world championship podium. 

Harvey and Kershaw have now the World Cup podium twice. The last time came in 2012 when Harvey and Kershaw finished first and third, respectively, in a prologue race at the World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden.

“It is so good be on the podium today and especially to share it with a teammate. It is just awesome for the whole team,’ said Harvey. “You need these results for the whole team, including the staff who are working so hard, because everyone needs to be rewarded.”

Harvey on top of his game

Harvey, son of former Canadian Olympian Pierre Harvey, captured two of the four podium finishes for the Canadian squad last year, including a bronze in the 15-kilometre classic race at last year’s Tour in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and another bronze in a classic-sprint race at the 2013 world championships.

Kershaw has been shut out of the medals since the World Cup Finals in Falun, which capped off his record-setting season.

“This is huge today,” said Kershaw, who finished second overall on the World Cup in 2012. “After a difficult season last year, and a vicious start this year, this came as a big surprise today. I’m still pretty shocked.”

The Canadians, who struggled to crack the top-half of the results this year, appear ready for a run at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

“I knew I did good training and preparation this summer and fall so I was perplexed with how things started,” said Kershaw. 

“I have had good feelings in training, but they have been night and day when I have been racing. I had good feelings again this morning warming up. I said to myself that if these feelings don’t relay into racing today then I don’t understand this sport at all. I just tried to ski as efficiently as possible. This such a huge relief for all of us.”

Kershaw’s breakthrough into an international cross-country ski star came at the 2011 Tour when he won four medals, including his first World Cup victory.

“I love the Tour de Ski. I think it is the coolest event of the year that showcases so many different strengths,” said Kershaw. This is my eighth time doing this and it is pretty special for me to win my 15th World Cup podium today. To do that with Alex and finishing one-two is amazing. That has never happened in cross-country skiing history.”

The third member of the Canadian men’s squad, Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., also shattered his personal best time in the prologue by finishing 26th at 9:28.2.

Bjorgen wins women's event

In the women's prologue, overall cross-country World Cup leader Marit Bjoergen led a 1-2 Norwegian finish in a three-kilometre race.

Mild and rainy weather forced organizers to shorten the course and change the format of the competition, a decision that led to the withdrawal of four-time women's Tour winner Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland.

The Olympic champion said it was unfair to have five freestyle and only two classical races in the seven-stage event.

"The changed program doesn't fit into my Olympic preparations," said Kowalczyk, a classical style specialist.

Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., was the top Canadian woman, finishing 37th (7:01.3), while Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Alta., placed 47th at 7:03.2.

The Tour ends in Italy on Jan. 5.

With files from The Associated Press

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