The upcoming World Cup season is extra important for cross-country skiers, with Olympic qualification points officially up for grabs.

The 2016-17 World Cup circuit kicks off on Saturday, bringing the world’s top cross-country skiers to Ruka, Finland. This season this desire to land on the podium is extra important, with the first stop falling within the Olympic qualification period. Based on their performance skiers will be awarded FIS Olympic qualification points, bringing them one step closer to PyeongChang 2018.

Related: Alex Harvey sprints to World Cup silver in Quebec City

Alex Harvey will lead Canada’s men’s team into the pre-Olympic season, after her raced to two thrilling silvers on last year’s circuit – including one in Quebec. On the women’s side Olympian Emily Nishikawa is expected to lead the nation’s team of rookies onto the World Cup circuit.

Alex Harvey races to a World Cup silver in men's sprint in Quebec on March 4, 2016. (Photo Credits: NordicFocus/Felgenhauer)

Alex Harvey races to a World Cup silver in men’s sprint in Quebec on March 4, 2016. (Photo Credits: NordicFocus/Felgenhauer)

Related: 2016-17 Winter Preview: Canada’s northern lights of the Nordic sports

Twelve athletes will represent Team Canada on the circuit, featuring four European stops before the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti. With just over 14 months until the next Olympic Games, Canadians skiers will have their eyes on the worlds podium, especially Harvey who already has a team sprint gold (2011), sprint bronze (2013) as well as a sprint silver and skiathlon bronze from 2015.

Early risers can live stream the World Cup action starting Saturday at 6:20 a.m. ET on cbcsports.ca.