IBU World Cup (Ruhpolding, Germany): Men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay
Less than a week after Sweden won the men’s 4 x 7.5-kilometer relay in Oberhof, Germany, with an up-and-coming group, Norway posted its second win (in three relays) this season, with an all-star lineup on Friday in Ruhpolding, Germany.
Lars Helge Birkeland, Tarjei Bø, Emil Hegle Svendsen, and Johannes Thingnes Bø took the lead during Johannes Bø’s anchor leg and ultimately the win in 1:13:11.1 hours, 24.9 seconds ahead of France in second and 53.4 seconds ahead of Russia in third.
On a bluebird day with no wind in the range, according to an International Biathlon Union (IBU) press release, the Norwegians avoided the penalty lap and used seven spares to clean. First-leg skier Birkeland put them in second with near-perfect shooting (0+0, 0+1), just 0.4 seconds behind Germany’s Erik Lesser, who cleaned without any spares, in first. (Birkeland was also on the Norwegian team that won the first relay of the season in Hochfilzen, Austria.)
Norway remained in second during Tarjei Bø’s second leg, in which he had to use three spares to clean prone (0+3, 0+0). He tagged Svendsen in second, 0.6 seconds behind Italy, which had risen to first thanks to Lukas Hofer’s fast skiing and solid shooting (0+0, 0+2).
Svendsen slipped slightly to third place by the final exchange despite only needing one spare to clean (0+0, 0+1), but was still just a second out of first at the tag. France had moved into first place with a predictably strong third leg from Martin Fourcade (0+0, 0+0), in which he brought the team from seventh to first place, just ahead of Italy’s Dominik Windisch and Norway’s Svendsen.
Johannes Bø skied the third-fastest anchor leg and cleaned prone and used two spares in standing (0+0, 0+2) to overtake France’s Antonin Guigonnat and Italy’s Thierry Chenal, who slipped to second and seventh, respectively, by the finish.
Guigonnat shot well, requiring just one spare (0+1, 0+0), but finished nearly 25 seconds after Bø for second place. Russia reached the podium with Anton Shipulin picking off two places, after being tagged in fifth.
In all, France had zero penalties and six spares, with Simon Desthieux, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Fourcade, and Guigonnat, and Russia used a total of just four spares and had no penalties with Alexey Volkov, Maxim Tsvetkov, Anton Babikov, and Shipulin.
Germany finished fourth (+1:26.5) with zero penalties and 10 spares, with Lesser, Benedikt Doll, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp. After Doll dropped to fifth on the second leg, they skied in fourth on the last two legs.
Austria took fifth (+1:39.8) with zero penalties and six spares, with David Komatz, Simon Eder, Daniel Mesotitsch, and Dominik Landertinger. Sweden followed in sixth (+1:50.6) with zero penalties, six spares and three of the same men who won last Sunday’s relay (Sebastian Samuelsson, Martin Ponsiluoma and Fredrik Lindström) with new member Torstein Stenersen. Italy finished seventh (+1:58.5) with one penalty and 11 spares.
Of 26 teams in the relay, Canada placed 14th (+3:22.3) with one penalty and 10 spares, and the U.S. finished 24th (+16:21.6) with eight penalties (four of which stemmed from cross-firing) and 13 spares.
Notably, the U.S. had been fourth and just 3 seconds out of first after Lowell Bailey’s first leg, which he cleaned without any spares (0+0, 0+0). Leif Nordgren then dropped to 22nd with a penalty in each of his shooting stages (1+3, 1+3) and the 25th-ranked second-leg time. Tim Burke as the team’s third leg had to ski two penalty laps as well (0+2, 2+3), and anchor Sean Doherty was penalized for cross-firing in his last standing stage (0+1, 4+1), according to a US Biathlon press release, and the team was hit with four additional penalties.
“We have a solid team and I know we didn’t show our true potential today,” Bailey said, according to the release. “But the most important relay is still to come. We’ll just have to wait until then.”
“I was happy to put together a good race on the track and in the range,” he said. “The first lap was a bit of a roller derby with no easy way to get to the front. I was fortunate to clean without extra rounds because this allowed me to leapfrog up to the lead pack exiting the range. I tried to keep an even pace for loop two and I thought I would be able to hang in second or third, but no one wanted to pass so I had to lead for most of the loop.
“I had struggled in standing in the previous race so I wanted to get back to taking good shots in standing,” he added. “Although I didn’t shoot as quickly as some of the other guys, I felt good about the stage and the fact that I didn’t have to use extras. It was a fight to catch the lead group on the last loop, but fortunately I had some help from [Italy’s Thomas] Bormolini (of Italy) and we worked together to get back in contact with the lead group.”
Canada finished 14th with Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Macx Davies, and Brendan Green. On the opening leg, Christian Gow put them in 11th with clean prone shooting and just one spare needed to clean standing (0+0, 0+1), but they slipped one spot to 12th with a penalty on Scott Gow’s second leg (0+0, 1+3). Davies then dropped two more places to 14th despite avoiding the penalty lap (0+3, 0+1), and Green held that position to the finish (0+1, 0+1).
The women’s 4 x 6 k relay will be held Saturday in Ruhpolding, with Canada starting Emma Lunder, Julia Ransom, Sarah Beaudry, and Rosanna Crawford. For the U.S., it will be Susan Dunklee, Clare Egan, Emily Dreissigacker, and Joanne Reid. Watch it live on the Olympic Channel at 8:30 a.m. EST.