When U.S. biathletes left Altenberg, Germany after the pursuit race on Saturday, they were saying goodbye not only to the venue, but to the entire IBU Cup circuit. While the U.S. Biathlon Association is supporting the World Cup team for the rest of the year, no more Continental Cup races will be funded.
Luckily, the team had plenty of satisfying results while in Europe, so the trip ended on a positive note.
“I’m proud of the women’s team this year and how we have done,” said Tracy Barnes. “I like our group, I like our posse.”
Barnes led the U.S. women in the final pursuit. Starting with bib 17, she missed three shots and slipped a few places to finish 23rd overall.
Annelies Cook was next, just seven seconds behind Barnes. She missed five shots in four shooting stages, and slipped from 21st to 25th.
While these might seem like a lot of penalties for a pursuit, conditions on the range were tricky, and not a single woman shot clean. In fact, there was only one woman with one penalty and two more with two penalties. The International Biathlon Union reported that the wind was constantly changing on the shooting range, making it difficult for even the best shooters to avoid penalties.
Susan Dunklee, who led the U.S. in Friday with a 10th-place finish in the sprint, had an especially tough day on the range. She missed seven shots and slipped to 37th place.
“I missed a bunch of shots on the right side,” she said in an e-mail as the team packed up. “Some of them were rushed. I didn’t feel that bad on the range. Some days the shooting comes together, some days it doesn’t, and that’s the nature of the sport.”
Dunklee said that the skiing wasn’t great either, and the women’s team had struggled with the slush. Temperatures were reported at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and second-place Nadine Horchler of Germany lost a sprint finish because the edges of the trail were in particularly poor condition and she was unable to pass winner Iris Waldhuber of Austria.
In the men’s race, Jay Hakkinen led the U.S. team with a 27th-place finish. He moved up from bib 40 thanks to relatively clean shooting. Hakkinen missed three shots but only three of the skiers ahead of him shot better.
“It is always nice to move forwards in the pursuit,” Hakkinen told FasterSkier. “Pursuits are pretty basic: if you shoot clean you move forward, miss one you stay where you are, and miss more than one you move back. Therefore, I used a pretty basic strategy of skiing with those around me and trying to outshoot them in the range. Today was not an easy shooting day, though, with changing wind, which made that strategy challenging, but it ended up a solid performance.”
Hakkinen also had the 27th-fastest ski time of the day in just his fourth race of the season.
“It is a great feeling that my shape is improving, which I expected, but it is nice when it actually happens according to plan,” he said. “I definitely have been enjoying the races, having been starved from them for so long. I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel I passed the first test.”
Zach Hall and Wynn Roberts also moved up in the pursuit. Hall started 50th and finished 47th, despite having six penalties, while Roberts improved from 59th to 52nd. Roberts missed nine shots, but had the 39th-fastest ski time of the day.
Bill Bowler had a tough day on the skis, slipping from 49th to 55th.