Canada's Alex Harvey raced to silver on the Tour de Ski on Saturday, narrowly missing the gold in the 20-kilometre Classic Mass Start.
Eldar Roenning of Norway finished strongly in one hour 2.2 seconds, just over a second in front of Harvey, a native of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., and Dario Cologna of Switzerland.
Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., finished sixth. Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was 32nd.
“My skis were just so good and I knew coming in the final downhill when I started double poling that I had a chance at the podium,” said Harvey, who has won four World Cup medals in his short three year career.
“It was a big day for Alex and Devon. They really came through with a lot of bonus seconds, and to have Alex breakthrough at the finish line is a great day for the entire program,” said Canadian Cross-Country ski coach Justin Wadsworth. "(Alex)came down the last downhill in second position, and held off Cologna and Northug which is not easy to do so it shows he is one of the best double-polers in the world."
Harvey credited Wadsworth with some quick thinking on Thursday after he experienced a tight back, calves and hamstrings. Wadsworth made a call to Shayne Hutchins, the team’s physiotherapist, and brought him to Val di Fiemme from Calgary to prepare the young Canuck for the grueling final weekend of the Tour.
“Justin flew Shayne in (Friday) and drove 10 hours in the worst snow storm he has ever seen to pick him up in Munich and drive him to Val di Fiemme,” said Harvey. “I had two hours with him Friday night and 30 minutes again this morning. I’m really glad he could make the trip. That’s how our team works. We play it day-by-day and if we need something Justin makes it happen.”
Cologna increased his overall lead to one minute, 22 seconds in front of second-place Petter Northug, ahead of the last of the nine stages to be staged on Sunday.
Kershaw is fourth with one event remaining while Harvey is sixth.
“It is looking good overall and a podium is a possibility tomorrow,” said Wadsworth. “The guys are top six and in good position I think. Anything can happen tomorrow so I hope we get a podium.”
Northug finished fourth Saturday and the Norwegian needs something dramatic on the gruelling climb up Mount Cermis to overtake Cologna.
Roenning climbed to 20th in the overall standings with the win.
In the women's 10-kilometre event, Justyna Kowalczyk beat Marit Bjoergen of Norway to retake the overall lead.
Kowalczyk raced clear about a kilometre from the finish line and hung on to win in 25 minutes 49.8 seconds, just under eight seconds ahead of Bjoergen.
There were no Canadians entered in the race.
It now looks set to be a two-way race for the title in Sunday's final event, with the Pole starting 11.5 seconds ahead of Bjoergen, who is bidding to become the first Norwegian to win the Tour de Ski.
One of the pre-race favourites, Therese Johaug seemed to tire halfway through and was well off the pace in finishing 11th. The Norwegian is third in the standings but nearly five minutes behind Kowalczyk.