TESERO, Italy — Alex Harvey struggled to a 19th-place finish in the 15-kilometre classic ski mass start on Saturday, dropping him to sixth place overall at the Tour de Ski with one race remaining.
Harvey, of Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., squeaked into the top-20 with a time of 41 minutes 18.7 seconds on a demanding courses with steep climbs and difficult flat sections.
"It is a tough course and the guys are pretty tired but they dug deep today," said Ivan Babikov, coach of the Canadian cross-country ski team at the Tour. "We might have missed it a bit with the skis. We may have gone with something a bit too sticky.
"It was really hard, packed snow and this is a tough course to get the skis right. Ideally you want to have good kick and a fast glide, but it is a gamble on a course this tough. The tracks were firm and icy but there were some sections where there were no tracks and others with powdery snow. We will debrief on it tonight."
Harvey won the first bonus sprint, but was not able to maintain pace with the frontrunners.
Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby ended Russia's Sergey Ustiugov's unprecedented five-race winning streak. Sundby clocked a winning time of 40:40. Ustiugov captured the silver medal in a photo finish with a pack of seven skiers at 40:42.2. Finland's Matti Heikkinen secured the final step on the podium at 40:42.8.
Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., fought his way into the points with a 27th-place finish at 41:52.1. Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., placed 32nd after clocking-in at 42:11.0.
Russia's Ustiugov will have a 72 second lead on Sundby as the seven-race Tour wraps up on Sunday with a punishing nine-kilometre pursuit race that ends with a 425-metre climb straight to the top of Alpe Cermis.
Harvey will begin his final quest for the overall podium, 38 seconds behind Switzerland's Dario Cologna.
"Alex is a competitive guy and is hungry. He will be in a group of about four guys who are all good climbers," said Babikov. "Dario is always strong, but anything is possible."
The Tour de Ski consists of seven races in nine days at four Nordic venues in three countries. The ultimate grind in high-performance sport tests some of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the