After last weekend’s sprint in Ruhpolding, Germany, Lowell Bailey was left feeling deflated – despite having hit all ten of his targets.
“I’ll just say that I’m pretty disappointed with my performance,” the American told FasterSkier the day after finishing 26th with the 44th-fastest ski time. “I’m not where I want to be with my ski shape and I will do everything I can from now until World Champs to try and improve on the tracks.”
What a difference a week makes: in Antholz, Italy, on Friday, Bailey was back in the top ten, shooting clean again but this time placing seventh to lead the U.S. team in the 10 k sprint.
“I felt alot better skiing today and the shooting felt composed and in control,” Bailey said after this performance. “I was definitely frustrated with the results from last week in Ruhpolding and I’m happy to see my ski speed improve from that low point.”
He will start Saturday’s pursuit 40 seconds behind race winner Anton Shipulin of Russia; 20 seconds from third place, Jakov Fak of Slovenia (the two were separated by Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway); and within four seconds of Evgeniy Garanichev of Russia and World Cup leader Martin Fourcade of France, who placed fifth and sixth. Andreas Birnbacher of Germany was fourth.
But not only will he be chasing, he’ll be chased. Daniel Mesotitsch and Frederic Pinter of Austria start two and seven seconds behind Bailey, and will likely work together to move up in the pursuit.
“Really looking forward to tomorrow!” Bailey exclaimed in a U.S. Biathlon Association press release.
He’ll be joined in the pursuit by Leif Nordgren, who placed 40th, and Tim Burke, who placed 45th.
For Nordgren, who had five penalties in the Ruhpolding sprint, after skiing an excellent relay leg earlier in the series, today was a chance for redemption. His two penalties in prone were a thorn in his side, but he cleaned standing and snuck into the points anyway.
“I was pretty happy with my race today, a little disappointed with prone, seems I can’t quite figure out the problems there, but I will eventually,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I was for sure pretty bummed after the sprint last week. But I laughed it off real quick and forgot about it right away. Didn’t even think twice about it!”
Both he and Bailey said they were enjoying Antholz; one nice feature is the sun, which is important after trips to “Rainpolding” and foggy Oberhof.
“I’m happy to be in Antholz for sure, I think yesterday and today were the first times I’ve seen the sun this whole year,” Nordgren reported. “The trimester is coming to an end and I’ve had a good one so I’m pretty happy.”
For Bailey, though, Antholz holds the promise of good racing. He likes the courses and believes they suit his skiing style.
“Antholz is one of my favorite venues because it has a ton of transitions and a lot of place where you can pickup time (or lose it) depending on your tactics,” Bailey wrote.
The 5,000 feet of altitude? That didn’t faze him, despite the fact that the national team has few training camps at elevation.
“We have tried to focus mostly on the training program and not on trying to target specific altitude training cycles,” he wrote. “The advantage of not going to altitude is that you can train more without getting as much fatigue as if you were up high. o, with Antholz, we just try to treat it like any other World Cup. We prepare the week leading in, and make sure we have the best game plan possible. You do feel the altitude up here, but it’s not ridiculously high so it’s manageable.”
Russell Currier placed 85th with four penalties and Jay Hakkinen 94th, also with four, to round out the U.S. squad.
Jean Philippe Le Guellec and Scott Perras just made the cutoff for the pursuit, placing 58th and 60th for Canada, each with three penalties. Scott Gow narrowly missed it, shooting the same to place 67th.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.