Alex Harvey finished fifth in the second-to-last stage of the Tour de Ski in Italy on Saturday. The Canadian was behind four Norwegians, one of whom – Chris Jesperson – had bumped Harvey off the podium in the overall standings to fourth place.
However, with the Olympics in mind, Cross Country Canada and Harvey have made a decision to pull out of the Tour rather than to challenge for the podium on Sunday.
“I think it has been really good preparation,” Harvey said of the Tour in a conference call from Italy. However, he felt that recovery was more important than making the final climb in Sunday’s seventh stage. He pulled out of it last year as well with similar consideration to future competition.
The decision was confirmed by a release on the website of Cross Country Canada, which revealed that the final climb would cause issues with an artery in one of Harvey’s legs.
“For me it was pretty clear before the Tour started that I wasn’t going to climb that hill,” Harvey said in the release.
“With his leg condition, it takes at least one week for Alex to recover from something like that,” head coach of Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team, Justin Wadsworth, elaborated.
Heading into Sunday, Harvey stood fourth overall behind Jesperson and two other Norwegians, Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Petter Northug.
Saturday’s event was in the 10-kilometre classical technique, before a 9 km free technique final climb in the seventh and last stage will end the Tour on Sunday at Val di Fiemme in Italy.
Harvey has excelled in the free technique stages, winning gold, silver and bronze in stages one, three and five respectively.
A day earlier, the third podium finish through five stages was had in the 35-kilometre freestyle pursuit. That result had Harvey sitting third overall in the Tour with two stages remaining.
He opened the Tour with a win in Germany, finished second in the Swiss leg of the journey on New Year’s Eve, before returning to the podium in Cortina-Toblach in third place.
Sundby and Northug, finished ahead of Harvey in the fifth stage, the three were the overall men’s Tour leaders in that order heading to Saturday.
Devon Kershaw, who finished second to Harvey in the opening stage of the Tour, has also been pulled from competition ahead of the final race to give him time to recover.