As Alexis Boeuf of France told IBU News on Friday, “You know, in biathlon one day you can be on the podium and the next day be last.”
That wasn’t quite true on Saturday, although Sergui Sednev of the Ukraine, who finished second in Friday’s sprint, dropped to 29th in the next day’s pursuit.
No, what is more noticeable is that the stars of last weekend’s World Cup openers in Ostersund, Sweden, haven’t shone as brightly since the circuit moved to Hochfilzen, Austria. Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway, a double winner in Ostersund, had the fastest ski time in the pursuit, but missed four shots, removing himself from contention for the win. He finished fifth, while his legendary teammate Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who had also picked up a win in Ostersund, missed three shots and finished seventh.
Instead, their young teammate Tarjei Boe raced to his second win of the weekend. Boe began the day with a 27-second lead, and extended it to 38 seconds by the end of the 12.5 k race. Along the way, he missed only one shot in four shooting stages. Boe was entirely unchallenged and skied his own race.
“Before the last shooting, I knew I had a one-minute lead,” he told IBU News. “I knew that I should continue shooting fast and I could still miss two and still win.”
He only missed one in that last stage, and left the range with still almost a minute over his next closest competitor. Coming into the finish through the still-falling snow – Hochfilzen has received almost two feet of fresh powder in the last 48 hours – he didn’t have to push to maintain his lead.
While he appeared confident on the trails and in the range, Boe told IBU news that he wasn’t expecting to do so well this weekend.
“I never expected to come here and win twice. I knew that my form was good enough to win, but it is hard in biathlon to win with so many athletes who can win. My shape in cross-country was good and my shooting is good and fast, then it would be no problem.”
Behind Boe, a fierce battle for second place unfolded. Coming into the final shooting stage, Russian teammates Ivan Tcherezov and Evgeny Ustyugov were second and third, with a fifteen-second gap back to Simon Eder of Austria. But the Russians missed shots and were stuck in the penalty loop while Eder cleaned. The Austrian managed to maintain a lead all the way to the finish, where Tcherezov outsprinted Ustyugov for third place. The three skiers finished within two seconds of each other.
While Eder had appeared to be the weaker skier earlier in the race, he told IBU News that it was actually part of his strategy.
“I was saving,” he said. “You have to save for the last loop when you are not in top shape. That is what I knew I had to do, you have to do your own race when you are not in top shape.”
Biathletes, take note, and watch out when he is in “top shape.”
As usual, Tim Burke led the Americans. He finished 19th after starting 23rd. Burke started the race strong, skiing well and cleaning both prone stages, and was in fifteenth place after two loops. But he faltered as the race went on. Burke missed three shots in the last two standing stages, and slowed on the fourth and fifth laps as well. In the end, he came into the finish just a few seconds ahead of Anton Shipulin of Russia and Klemen Bauer of Slovenia, who had made up almost twenty and ten seconds on him, respectively, in the last lap.
Lowell Bailey moved up even more in the standings, skiing from 55th place into 39th. He missed only one prone shot and one standing, and had the 42nd-fastest ski time.
“Today was a good step forward for me,” he told FasterSkier in an e-mail. “I was happy with the shooting and I felt much better skiing. It is a good sign heading towards the middle of the season. It has been a tough couple of days here in Hochfilzen as we have gotten more than two feet of snow in the last 48 hours! Considering the weather, I’m happy with result and looking forward to the relay tomorrow.”
The Canadians struggled on the range, with Jean-Phillipe Leguellec missing eight shots and falling from 27th place to 59th. Brendan Green missed seven shots and slipped from 35th place to 54th.
World Cup action continues Sunday in Hochfilzen as the men race a relay. The Norwegian team, featuring Boe, Svendsen, and Bjorndalen, will be heavy favorites, and the men will have to work together rather than against each other as they did last weekend, where there was a bit of animosity between Svendsen and Bjorndalen after the pursuit.