Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway hasn’t always been the most gracious competitor.
After Sunday’s mass start race in Oberhof, Germany, he told the media that he was “shocked” about how fast his teammate Tarjei Boe had become.
And after the season-opening World Cups in Ostersund, Sweden, he bragged that he was “in an attacking position all of the time. I feel unstoppable, really.”
Since that claim, Svendsen has indeed been stoppable, but things changed today when he took a seven-second win over Martin Fourcade of France in the 20 k individual race in Rupholding, Germany on Wednesday
Ever cocky, Svendsen said that despite having the second-fastest ski time (behind only Boe, who finished fifth), he wasn’t in top form.
“My plan was to race faster as the competition went on, but also save some energy for the final loop,” he told IBU News. “I was not actually feeling that good on the skis today… I still have some work to do with my skiing. It is still not my best shape. It is good that I still have something to look forward to.”
With his win, Svendsen stole the red bib for leading the standings in the individual format from Daniel Mesotitsch of Austria.
The other story of the day was the success of the Fourcade brothers. 22-year-old Martin finished second, and 26-year-old Simon fourth as France had their best day yet this year.
Dominik Landertinger of Austria was the men separating the two, as he stood on the World Cup podium for the first time.
Lowell Bailey (USA) led the North American contingent with an impressive 16th-place finish. While Bailey has two better World Cup results on his resume, it was by far his best race so far this season.
“It was a solid race for me and I felt like I executed my gameplan from start to finish,” he told FasterSkier in an e-mail. “I missed two targets, but I my skiing was a notch higher than it was last week in Oberhof. The conditions were definitely challenging, with deep, wet snow throughout. However, I had great skis and felt good on the track. I’m happy that I came away with a decent day on the range, although I hope to improve my standing shooting as we move toward World Championships and the American World Cups next month.”
In December, Bailey had said that he wasn’t skiing as well as usual, but that it was all part of a plan to be fast later in the season and that his skiing would come around.
It certainly looked like the plan paid off on Wednesday, as he had the 22nd-fastest ski time on the day.
“So far, I am happy with the way my training has played out over the season,” Bailey said. “We changed a few fundamental aspects of my training this year, namely pushing back the higher intensity sessions until later in the year, and I feel like those changes have made a big difference.”
The U.S. Biathlon Association hoped that Bailey’s heroics would spur the rest of the team to new highs.
“That was really an amazing performance,” High Performance Director Bernd Eisenbichler said in a press release. “Lowell’s shooting was solid and he was really strong on the tracks. A result like that will motivate the whole men’s team.”
Brendan Green of Canada finished 25th, tied with Lois Habert of France. Green is having a phenomenal campaign this year, and is currently ranked 35th on the World Cup.
Three other Americans competed: Tim Burke finished 42nd with three penalties, while Leif Nordgren and Jeremy Teela were a bit further down the results sheet in 64nd and 75th places.
Jean-Phillipe Leguellec was the second Canadian in 49th place, followed by Marc-Andre Bedard in 76th and Scott Perras in 84th.
Competition continues on Thursday with a women’s 15 k individual.