When Lowell Bailey raced in the 2014 Blink Festival 7-kilometer hill climb just days after arriving in Norway, he was jolted by a “shock to the system,” he wrote in an email.
Apparently the shock was what he needed to deliver a top-notch performance, as the U.S. biathlete finished second in the biathlon mass start the next day in the city of Sandnes.
The road to the podium wasn’t an easy one. To participate in the mass start, competitors who were not already pre-qualified needed to place in the top six in the qualification round. The round consisted of five laps of 800 meters with prone shooting following the second lap and standing following the fourth.
In a tough field, Bailey and U.S. teammate Tim Burke claimed the last two spots in the mass start by taking fifth and sixth.
Once in the mass start, Bailey knew he had to focus on his shooting if he wanted to have any hopes of placing on the podium.
“I told myself before the race that I was going to race my own race and try not to get caught up in the hurried shooting situations that always happen in this type of race,” Bailey wrote.
Throughout the race, which consisted of nine laps on a 700-meter loop, and two prone and two standing stages, Bailey often took longer to shoot but maintained contact with the lead group.
When he exited the final shooting he was the last of the four competitors he had arrived with to leave the mats.
However, his fellow competitors had rushed through their shots and had penalty loops to compete. Bailey had shot perfectly and left the range with a five-second lead over Norway’s Emil Hegle Svedsen.
Svedsen ultimately caught the American in the final stretches of the race, overcoming him by just 0.7 seconds.
Bailey was followed by Norwegian Tarjei Bø, who finished 12.9 seconds behind Svedsen.
Burke finished eighth in the mass start, 1:09.9 back.
In the women’s 6.3 k mass start Fanny Wele-Strand Horn of Norway was victorious with a time of 14:10.8. She was followed by Kaisa Makarainen of Finland and Marine Bolliet of France in second and third.
American Susan Dunklee finished in eighth, 41.8 seconds behind Horn. Dunklee was one of five athletes who had pre-qualified for the mass start, but struggled with her shooting in the final.
“Unfortunately I missed a lot of prone targets early in the final and despite passing a few people on skis, I never regained contact with the main pack,” Dunklee wrote in an email.
The cross-country mass start races that took place later that day consisted of women’s 10 k and a men’s 15 k.
In the men’s race, Teodor Peterson of Sweden claimed victory for the second day in a row on the rollerski course that consisted of 18 laps around an 800-meter loop. The sprint specialist finished with a time of 28:07.3. He was followed by Norwegian Øystein Pettersen in second and Cyril Gaillard in third.
The men’s field was incredibly close with the top-23 finishers crossing the line within ten seconds of Peterson.
Canadian Devon Kershaw was one such finisher. He placed seventh, just 3.7 seconds behind the Swede and 1.4 seconds off the podium.
In an email, Kershaw explained that the curvy course and the 30 aggressive racers that populated it made for conditions he was not used to, but he was happy with how the day ended.
“I was out of position near the end and with all the curves there was nothing I could do,” Kershaw wrote. “It was a fun evening though!”
In the women’s 10 mass start, another sprint-specialist took the win. Slovena’s Katja Visnar finished with a time of 20:36.0. She was followed by German sprinter Denise Herrmann in second and Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in third.
American Liz Stephen finished 18th. In an email, she declared the race a success in that there were no major crashes.
“It was good for my head in that I need to be less nervous about skiing in a pack close to other skiers, and after today snow seems like it should be no problem at all,” she wrote.
U.S. biathletes also shined in the final day of the Blink Festival with Burke and Bailey claiming third and sixth, respectively, in the biathlon sprint.
Burke finished 8.7 seconds behind race winner Johannes Thingness Bø of Norway, who won the final in 12:25.8. Second place went to fellow Norwegian Marius Hol who crossed the line 7.4 seconds behind Bø.
Bailey finished sixth, 22.7 seconds behind the winner.
In the women’s biathlon sprint, Dunklee placed sixth in her semifinal and did not advance to the final. The women’s biathlon final was won by was won by Bolliet, who was followed by French teammates Enora Latuilliere and Anais Chevalier in second and third, respectively.
In the cross-country sprints, Norway’s Marit Bjørgen topped the women’s final. She edged teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla for the win by just 0.1 seconds. Visnar placed third, 1.1 seconds behind Bjørgen.
Stephen was unable to advance from the quarterfinals.
Sondre Turvoll Fossli of Norway won the men’s final in 3:08.1. He was followed by another Norwegian Martin Hammer in second and Sweden’s Peterson in third.
2014 Blink Festival Results
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.