IBU World Cup (Oberhof): Women’s and men’s pursuits
So far in 2018, Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina is undefeated after winning her second-straight race on Saturday at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup in Oberhof, Germany — this time by 1:04.4 minutes in the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit.
After winning Thursday’s sprint, Kuzmina started 35 seconds clear of anyone else on Saturday, while Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen headed out of the gate after her in second.
Veronika Vitkova of the Czech Republic started another 5 seconds back in third, and Germany’s Franziska Hildebrand set out in fourth, 47 seconds after Kuzmina.
Three Canadians finished in the top 60 of Thursday’s sprint to qualify for the pursuit, with Julia Ransom heading out ninth (+1:14), Sarah Beaudry starting 23rd (+1:39), and Megan Tandy starting 59th (+2:38).
Throughout the four-stage race, it became more and more evident that no one was going to touch Kuzmina. She cleaned the first prone stage to leave the range 55.8 seconds clear of Hildebrand, who also cleaned to move into second. Makarainen dropped to fourth with a miss and Vitkova left the range in third (+1:08.5) after skiing a penalty lap as well.
On the second prone stage, Kuzmina missed one target, but the penalty lap only cost her about 10 seconds; Hildebrand cleaned to keep herself in second place with three loops remaining.
The first standing stage that followed saw Kuzmina miss another target and Hildebrand clean, yet 34.6 seconds still separated them. Kuzmina finally cleaned the last standing to extender her lead back up to a minute, while Hildebrand missed one to lose sight of the podium, slipping to fifth and 1:22.4 back at the start of the final loop.
Italy’s Dorothea Wierer as the 16th starter steadily worked her way up to podium contention, cleaning all four stages with the third-fastest overall shooting time to put herself in second after the final standing, 1:00.2 behind Kuzmina. Ukraine’s Vita Semerenko raced up from 22nd to third with perfect 20-for-20 shooting as well, leaving the range 11 seconds after Wierer with one loop to go.
On the final loop, Kuzmina skied the 22nd-fastest time on that loop (compared to Wierer’s 28th-fastest last-loop time) to put a few more seconds into Wierer as the eventual runner-up, winning in 30:49.5. On the day, Kuzmina’s overall course time was eighth fastest.
“It was a very interesting race for me today,” Kuzmina told the IBU after. “My shape is very good now but I was worried if I could concentrate on the shooting … After the first shooting, I was relaxed and realized it was OK. I just gave the other girls two chances … I must apologize for my emotion [on the shooting range], but I was so happy and enjoyed the last loop.”
Wierer finished 1:04.4 minutes later for second place, and Semerenko crossed the line in third, 1:10.2 out of first. Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska finished fourth (+1:17.1) after starting sixth, with clean shooting, and Mäkäräinen ended up fifth (+1:23.4) with three penalties (1+0+1+1) and the fourth-fastest overall course time. Belarusian Darya Domracheva followed in sixth (+1:28.8) after starting seventh and shooting 18-for-20 (0+0+1+1), and Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier finished seventh (+1:28.8), up from 13th with one late penalty (0+0+0+1).
South Korea’s Anna Frolina placed eighth (+1:36.0, two penalties) for her best result since December 2012, France’s Justine Braisaz finished ninth (+1:37.0; three penalties), and another French skier Anais Bescond 10th (+1:37.1; one penalty). Hildebrand lost six places on the final loop to end up 11th (+1:38.7; one penalty).
Overall, France’s Celia Aymonier skied the fastest course time of the day to rise from 28th to 15th (+2:08.7; three penalties).
Ransom finished the day in 37th (+3:54.4) with three misses (1+0+0+2). She had been in 16th after her early miss in the first prone stage then hovered around the top 20 as she entered her final standing stage. There, she missed two to drop to 36th and she ultimately lost one more place to Finland’s Mari Laukkanen (who started the loop in 37th and passed Ransom, as well as four others, to finish 32nd).
In her first World Cup pursuit of the season, Tandy improved to 43rd (+4:31.8) with a single miss (0+0+1+0). Overall, her range time was the 18th fastest and shooting time was 23rd fastest.
Beaudry finished 51st (+5:36.6) with three misses (1+2+0+0), recovering one place from skiing in 52nd after the second shooting.
In the men’s 12.5 k pursuit that followed, France’s Martin Fourcade held the lead from start to finish and held off Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø by 6.3 seconds for his second-straight win in Oberhof. Both of the Bø brothers reached the podium with older brother Tarjei Bø placing third, 30.9 seconds back.
Fourcade as starter No. 1 had a single penalty on the first prone to keep himself ahead (1+0+0+0) and finish first in 32:23.6. Johannes Bø had three penalties (1+1+1+0) but still managed to rise from third at the start to second at the finish. Tarjei started fifth and shot clean to reach the podium.
The fourth starter, American Tim Burke had three penalties (0+2+0+1) and ended up 14th (+1:43.7).
Meanwhile, Canada’s Christian Gow rose from 36th to 21st (+2:19.2) to tie his career best (which also came in a pursuit this season) with 19-for-20 shooting (0+0+0+1). Scott Gow finished 50th (+4:45.0; six penalties), and Brendan Green placed 54th (+5:26.1; three penalties).
The Oberhof IBU World Cup concludes Sunday with the men’s and women’s relays. Canada has entered Beaudry, Ransom, Tandy, and Emma Lunder in the women’s 4 x 6 k, and Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Brendan Green, and Carsen Campbell in the men’s 4 x 7.5 k. The U.S. does not have enough athletes at the Oberhof World Cup to field a team in either race.
Tour de Ski Stage 6 (Val di Fiemme, Italy): 10/15 k classic mass starts
After a soggy and windy stay in Oberstdorf, Germany where the Stage 4 sprint was canceled and the Stage 5 freestyle mass stats were a cluster, the Tour de Ski (TdS) got back to a sense of normalcy in Val di Fiemme.
Or did they? After dominating the first part of the men’s 15 k classic mass start and picking up valuable Tour bonus seconds, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov faded, eventually finishing 14th, 42.8 seconds out of the win.
Instead, Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan made a big push to try to break for it about halfway through the race. Dario Cologna of Switzerland, the Tour de Ski leader coming into the day, followed, as did Canada’s Alex Harvey. The trio had a small gap of a few seconds consistently for several kilometers, before Russia’s Andrey Larkov caught up to them. Behind them, the field continued to fracture into chaos, claiming what would in past years have seemed unlikely victims like Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby.
After much posturing and pushing in the final kilometer, the lead pack of four came shooting into the downhill finish with Poltoranin claiming the win by 0.4 seconds over Larkov. Harvey finished third, +0.9, and Cologna fourth, +2.3. There was a bigger gap before Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov crossed the line in fifth, +15.0.
That means that Poltoranin takes over second place in the Tour, while Ustiugov lost ground.
The only American starter, Paddy Caldwell, finished 48th out of 52 finishers, +3:38.6.
The women’s race went off as planned: no snafus, only burning lungs and muscles. At the start of Stage 6, Jessie Diggins was ranked third overall in the Tour (+1:56.7). Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg wore the red bib as the TdS leader, while teammate Heidi Weng was second overall (+57.0).
As Saturday’s race transpired, Weng proved dominant. She won in 29:07.9. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski placed second (+7.6), and Austria’s Teresa Stadlober third (+8.6).
Diggins skied a gutsy race to finish fourth (+23.6). Østberg, who at times looked like she could dominate the pace, faded to fifth (+35.2).
U.S. skiers Sadie Bjornsen finished in 10th place (+1:11.3), Liz Stephen 24th (+2:18), and Rosie Brennan 30th (+2:47.2).
Heading into tomorrow’s final stage, the formidable climb up the Alpe Cermis, Østberg leads the Tour with a tiny 1.8-second gap on Weng. Parmakoski is third overall (+1:33.5), Diggins fourth (+1:43.1), and Bjornsen eighth (+3:33.1).
Results: Women’s Stage 6 |