Harvey Strikes Gold In Poland

Haywood RACE Report:Alex Harvey wins skate sprint at Szklarska Poreba, Perianne Jones 10th.

Qualifying got underway this morning for the knockout rounds of the Polish World Cup in Szklarska Poreba with temperatures just around zero deg. C. and the Canadian team fared well with 4 advancing to the quarter-finals.

The top qualifier in the women’s race was Greta Laurent of Italy and Dasha Gaiazova was the top Canadian, finishing 26th. Perianne Jones sneaked into a qualifying spot, finishing 30th, fractions of a second ahead of Russian skier Irina Khazova.

On the men’s side Federico Pellegrino of Italy was the top qualifier and the 2 Canadians entered, Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw, qualified comfortably in 7th and 20th position.

Perianne Jones was in the first heat with Kikkan Randall and the top qualifier, Greta Laurent of Italy. Randall led out fast from the start and Laurent stumbled, with Peri tucking in behind the U.S. sprint star. There was more action at the back of the pack as Laurent tried to make up ground, tangling with Razinger of Slovenia so they both lost further time.

The race was now a group of 4, with Randall leading the way, Peri in second and 2 Russians, Svetlana Nikolaeva and Evgenia Shapovalova bunched up close behind.

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18.01.2014, Szklarska Poreba, Poland (POL): Kikkan Randall (USA), Perianne Jones (CAN) – FIS world cup cross-country, individual sprint, Szklarska Poreba(POL). www.nordicfocus.com. ©

The course includes a major climb halfway through and it was here that Randall extended her lead, with Shapovalova fading a little at the back.

As they reached the corner of the final straight, Randall cruised to the finish, with Peri taking an inside lane for 2nd, holding off a hard challenge from Nikolaeva, who would be a “lucky loser”and move on to the semis.

Dasha was drawn in the 3rd heat, finishing 5th, 4 seconds off the pace of Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia.

In the semi-final Perianne was once again drawn against the eventual race winner, Kikkan Randall, and Peri finished 5th, 1.25 sec. behind.  A good result from the 30th qualifier.

On the men’s side Devon raced in heat 1, which was won by Russian sprint star Nikita Kriukov. It was a tight race with Devon just failing to move on after a 4th place finish, less than 1/2 a second from 1st.

Alex began an intense competition with Baptiste Gros of France in the quarter-final with a lead of just under a second, in heat 2.  Gros had competed in Mont Ste. Anne at the 2012 Haywood Nationals finishing 5th in the sprint that was won by Alex.

In the semi-final rematch Gros was the victor with Alex finishing a close 4th, good enough for a “lucky loser”position in the final. Kriukov and Renaud Jay of France had incidents on the course that left them 8 seconds off the lead.

Alex considers himself as more of a distance racer and decided in the final not to let the finish to be tight and come down to a sprint that may favour the other skiers. He was also concerned about some of the spills that had occurred in earlier heats, and so decided to push the pace and keep the lead from the start.

At the finish Alex prevailed by 1/2 second over Josef Wenzel of Germany and Alex’s rival for the day, Baptiste Gros. This was Alex’s first victory in a full World Cup, other victories have been “stage World Cup wins”.