Alex Harvey led the first wave of Canadian cross-country ski stars into his hometown of Quebec City where they will host the world for the first-ever World Cup to be contested on the old streets of the provincial capital. Harvey and his six World Cup teammates will be among a hefty group of Canucks – 25 men and 25 women – that will kick off back-to-back weeks of elite cross-country ski racing in Canada at Sprint Quebec, December 7-8, 2012.

“It feels great to be home, and I’m so excited to race here in Quebec City for the first time,” said the 24-year- old Alex Harvey, who lives on the outskirts of the main city in the town of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges. “It is so exciting to be a part of that. My first World Cup medal was in Canada (Olympic test event at Whistler Olympic Park). I always seem to put the best results down in the big events. I thrive when there is extra pressure and I love the adrenaline. I am really looking forward to the next two weeks.”

Harvey came off the plane in Quebec with his World Championship winning teammate, and great friend, Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont. Canadian race fans may get a glimpse of the dynamic duo charging for the podium together in the team sprint race on Friday.

“I am thrilled to be here. When we raced nationals here last year, it was the biggest domestic race I have ever been a part of,” said Kershaw, who made history finishing second overall on the World Cup last year. “It is just so good for our sport to see things evolve out east as well. It is going to be awesome.”

Canada will field four men’s and four women’s teams that will battle for the medals in the team sprint relay on Friday. A total of 15 women and 15 men will compete in a skate-sprint through the core of Quebec City, located alongside the picturesque St. Lawrence River, on Saturday.

“Hosting elite FIS World Cup racing on home snow is a critical component to our high-performance plan,” said Tom Holland, high-performance director, Cross Country Canada. “These events give our World Cup Team the opportunity to race in front of our passionate Canadian ski community, while ultimately introducing the sport to thousands of new youth across the country.

“But, equally as important, these events also provide a unique opportunity for Cross Country Canada to provide development-level athletes with World Cup race experience, which is crucial for their continued development into elite skiers.”

Following the two Quebec starts, the world will then travel west for the 2012 Alberta World Cup at the Canmore Nordic Centre. The 1988 Olympic venue will host a 10/15-kilometre skate-ski mass start race on December 13, followed by a sprint race on December 15, and a skiathlon to wrap up the Nordic festival on December 16. Cross Country Canada will suit up 15 women for both distance races, and send 15 women to the start line for the sprint event. Canada will also have 15 men in all races throughout the week.

“Everything that I have done so far is tailored around these events. I’ve ordered my shape. It is in the mail, and will be here on time for these races,” said the 28-year-old Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., whowon a World Cup sprint race in her hometown in 2008. “I just feel so strong and thrive off the support of being in the big races at home in Canada. I am super confident. Now it’s time to pull the arrow back and let it fly.”

Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., who is coming one of the strongest World Cup performances of her career will also be in Quebec City, along with fellow-Olympian Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta. World Cup rookie, Alysson Marshall of Salmon Arm, B.C., rounds out the Canadian World Cup Team that will don the maple leaf in Canada’s fourth oldest city.

Toronto’s Len Valjas will join Kershaw and Harvey in Quebec City. Their World Cup comrades, Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., and Calgary’s Kevin Sandau will rejoin them in Alberta for the distance events.

Canadian athletes had a variety of opportunities to be selected to compete in the string of World Cup races on this side of the pond, including through the season’s-first Haywood NorAm Series races that were held this past weekend in Canmore, Alta.

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Photo courtesy of Sprint Quebec

SnowOnline Editor: Lori Knowles