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Alex Harvey leads Canada at cross-country skiing World Cup event

Canada's Alex Harvey poses with his bronze medal after the men's 1.5 km classic sprint race at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.

Giovanni Auletta/AP

Alex Harvey was the top Canadian on Saturday, finishing 16th in the 15-kilometre event at a cross-country skiing World Cup event.

Harvey, from St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., finished the Nordic track filled with steeps climbs and fast descents in 35 minutes 50.2 seconds.

"This is heavy racing right now being an Olympic year. Many of the Norwegians, Swedes and Russians are all fighting for spots at the Games so are skiing extremely fast," said Justin Wadsworth, the head coach of Canada's cross-country ski team. "Right now there is no Olympic pressure on us so we need to keep calm and stay focused on the process because you don't want to be going this hard this early in the game."

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Norway's Paul Golberg won the men's classic ski race with a time of 35:00.0. Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan skied to the silver medal time at 35:14.2. Norway's Didrik Toenseth was third in 35:15.5.

Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., placed 35th at 36:23.6, Devon Kershaw (37:03.7) of Sudbury, Ont., finished 56th and Jesse Cockney (37:44.2) of Canmore, Alta., was 68th.

"Obviously we are hoping for a bit better, but it is coming slowly," said Wadsworth. "This is all normal where nobody is feeling very good coming off such a high volume of training. It is just the way it is and we have to be patient."

No Canadian women suited up on Saturday. Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won the women's 10-kilometre classic ski race with a time of 25:59.4.

Kowalczyk finished 12.4 seconds ahead of Charlotte Kalla of Sweden. More impressively, Kowalczyk beat triple Olympic champion Marit Bjoergen of Norway by 25.6 seconds to send an early message ahead of the Sochi Games. Bjoergen finished third ahead of fellow Norwegian Therese Johaug.

"My skis were perfect today and I was really good," the Polish skier said. "It's a really good feeling."

Kowalczyk has now won 13 of the last 19 classical-style distance races on the World Cup.

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With files from the Associated Press

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