Germany’s Andrea Henkel skied to her second straight World Cup win on Saturday in Fort Kent, besting her teammate Magdalena Neuner by 25 seconds in the 10 k pursuit.
Neuner and Henkel came into the final shooting stage together, and Neuner, a stronger skier, looked to have the race wrapped up when she hit her first four targets. But her last round went awry, and she couldn’t overcome the 25-second deficit she accumulated in the penalty loop—not with Henkel going clean.
France’s Marie Dorin was third, moving up from bib number seven as one of just three women to hit all 20 of her targets.
Sara Studebaker (USA), meanwhile, was the top North American in 27th, using a solid 17-for-20 shooting to collect her fourth top-30 in as many individual races. The result helped her become the last woman to qualify for Sunday’s mass start—her first ever—despite struggling on course.
“Out on the tracks, it was not my day,” she said. “On the range, three penalties, with the way I was feeling today skiing—I think it was a good result for me…To not have your best day and still be in the top 30 is pretty good.”
Three Canadians started, in Rosanna Craword, Claude Godbout, and Zina Kocher, but all of them struggled on the range and were lapped.
At the front, it was a battle between Henkel and Neuner—the first and third starters—for the latter part of the race.
Their teammate Miriam Goessner, the second starter, was in the mix until the second shooting stage, when she came apart and missed four shots.
Goessner typically struggles with her rifle, but she had held together in Friday’s sprint and raced to second place with just two penalties. Her seven total misses in Saturday’s pursuit knocked her back to 10th, but at just 20 years old, she’s still got plenty of time to figure things out on the range.
“I know if I was 19 or 20 years old, I’d have to collect experience, too. I think it’s normal—when she’s 24, I think she’ll be a really, really good biathlete,” Neuner said.
Neuner herself isn’t known for her prowess in shooting, and indeed, she missed two shots in her first stage on Saturday. It took her two more loops with no misses to draw even with Henkel, who hit 14 of 15 in her first three trips to the range.
When the two came back to the stadium for their final shooting stage, Neuner knew that if she hit all her targets, she’d likely win. But a hiccup on her last shot cost her the race.
“I was thinking, and this was not very good,” she said.
With a third place from Friday’s sprint and a second place on Saturday, Neuner will get one last crack at a win in Fort Kent in Sunday’s mass start. But to do it, she’ll have to scale the course’s massive climb—which she called the “Mount Everest of biathlon”—five more times.
She’ll also have to contend with Henkel, who is on a tear here after less impressive results last week in Presque Isle, where she was still on the mend from an illness.
In two races in Fort Kent, Henkel has won both, hitting 29 of 30 total shots. And over the 10 kilometers of skiing on Saturday, she was just 30 seconds off Neuner, who had the best course time of the day.
To win on Sunday, Neuner can likely afford just one more penalty than Henkel—not to mention the fact that there will be 28 other women gunning for the victory.
“I think it will be a tough race tomorrow,” Neuner said. “But I think my chances are good.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.