Conditions deteriorated today for racing in Östersund, Sweden, with a consistent wind that made shooting difficult and fresh snow that slowed the tracks. Sweden’s Fredrik Lindström was undeterred by the wind, shooting perfectly, but crashed just over a kilometer from the finish line and was passed by Frenchman Martin Fourcade, wearing the yellow jersey from his victory in Thursday’s 20 k individual race. Fourcade had picked up one penalty in the standing stage, but finished with the win in 25:56 while Lindström was 6.5 seconds behind following his crash. American Tim Burke also shot perfectly, but his early-season legs could not match those of Fourcade and Lindström and finished 31.3 seconds behind Fourcade, for a total time of 26:27.
For his part, Fourcade admitted some disappointment about winning due to Lindström’s crash: “we both know [Lindström] would have won if he had not fallen,” he said in a press conference, which can be seen on the International Biathlon Union’s website. He also admitted the importance of clean shooting: “we both know that sometimes you can get away with some mistakes, but shooting clean is the best way to be safe.”
Lindström’s rifle reportedly broke when he crashed, which will present a challenge in tomorrow’s race.
“I’m not so good with tools, so I’ll have to ask some friends for help [fixing it],” he said to Swedish TV4. “I am a bit concerned for the rifle. There may be some glue … I can’t put on my shoulder. The entire rear end is gone. I have to get into that stuff, otherwise it will be difficult to shoot.”
For his part, Burke was surprised with his podium finish due to what he describes as poor ski fitness.
“We really planned on working into the season this year so I know I am not in perfect skiing shape,” he wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “The best part about my race today was surely the shooting. I was able to follow through with the things I have been working on in training, so I am very happy about that. After leaving standing shooting I thought I would have a chance for a top 10 finish with how I was feeling on the ski course. I think a few more races will go a long way in getting my skiing back to the level I was at last year. Now I am looking forward to an exciting pursuit tomorrow!”
Indeed, if Burke’s fitness is really lacking, then perhaps he can deliver big things this season:
“I feel like this year I reached a new level with my skiing in training. I know that my skiing today was far from what I am capable of when I am in top form. I am confident that my fitness will continue to improve with more racing, but the others may improve as well! The trick will be having a race where I combine my shooting from today with my best ski performance. ”
Lowell Bailey contributed to a solid day of racing for the United States with a 14th place finish, coming in at 27:02.6 with one penalty in prone, 1:06.6 behind first-place Fourcade. The first Canadian finisher was Scott Perras, coming in 34th in 27:38.8, also with one penalty in prone.
“I have struggled with jet lag since coming to Sweden and just couldn’t shift into the gear necessary for good race results,” Perras wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “I knew the 20 k individual race would help me; I needed to get in that hard effort and then I had a day to absorb it. Unfortunately my hands froze in the race even though the temps were mild, this cost me time and possibly accuracy in prone shooting.”
“Hopefully my body continues to come around,” he added.
It was a particularly disappointing day for Canadian JP Le Guellec, who finished in 69th place with a time of 28:54.7 today after an impressive 4th place finish in Thursday’s 20 k individual race.
“We had calm wind during zero-time (the period allocated for adjusting the rifles pre-race),” Le Guellec explained in an email sent to FasterSkier, “my ski shape wasn’t very good, and on top of that the wind picked up drastically when I came in prone. I tried shading the target to compensate for the wind, but it wasn’t enough and I still missed two targets. I got thrown around in standing as well with another two accumulated misses.”
“Having no wind in zero time and having it come up in the race happens throughout a season,” Le Guellec continued, “it’s always frustrating when what you do doesn’t work. But the worst is that I won’t be racing in tomorrow pursuit since I was not in the top 60.”
“Fuel for World Cup 2 in Hochfilzen,” he added.
Burke will have a chance to snag another podium tomorrow in the 12.5 k pursuit, where Lindström might also have the chance to avenge his crash and overtake Fourcade.
Jean Guillaume Beatrix of France tied his career-best finish in fourth place, while World Cup podium stalwarts Arnd Peiffer of Germany and Evgeniy Ustyugov of Russia were fifth and sixth and will be in the mix for the lead tomorrow.