IBU Biathlon World Cup (Ruhpolding, Germany): 12.5/15 k mass starts
Kaisa Makarainen of Finland took her first win of the season and will start next weekend with the overall World Cup leader’s bib after she outsprinted Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier by 0.8 seconds to claim the win in the 12.5 k mass start. In a tight race for third, Veronica Vitkova of the Czech Republic edged out Rosanna Crawford of Canada for the final spot on the podium; the pair crossed the line 4.6 and 5.2 seconds behind Makarainen. The podium finishers all had two penalties apiece while Crawford shot clean, repeating the 20-for-20 effort that netted her third place and her first-ever podium in the 15 k individual earlier this week. Germany’s Denise Herrmann was sixth, +16.7 seconds, despite four missed targets.
In the men’s 15 k mass start, Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø took a win over France’s Martin Fourcade as the pair continue their running battle this season. Bø had one penalty to Fourcade’s two, although that penalty came in the last shooting stage to make things interesting – Fourcade, whose penalties had come in the prior shooting stage, closed to within 4.5 seconds by the finish, but was unable to beat the Norwegian. Antonin Guigonnat, one of the newest members of the French World Cup team, shot 20-for-20 to claim third place and his second podium of the season. In an exciting race, the top nine men all finished within 15 seconds of one another. The sole U.S. entry, Tim Burke, was in the top 15 for much of the race before missing two shots in the final standing shooting stage and finishing 21st, +1:30.2
FIS Cross Country World Cup (Dresden, Germany): 6 x 1.2 k freestyle team sprint
For the second-straight day in Dresden, Sophie Caldwell notched third place and was nearly second with U.S. teammate Ida Sargent on Sunday in the World Cup women’s 1.2-kilometer freestyle team sprint.
The race ended in a three-way fight for first, which Sweden II’s anchor Maja Dahlqvist took by 0.16 seconds over Sweden I’s Stina Nilsson. While the two lunged for the line, Caldwell came on strong to give them a run as well, finishing just 0.23 seconds back in third (after being in a photo finish for second).
Earlier in the day, Sargent and Caldwell had won the second semifinal to advance to the 10-team final. The U.S. Ski Team’s second team, Caitlin Patterson and Kikkan Randall, finished second in that heat, just 0.11 seconds back and advanced as well.
Sweden I won the first semifinal with Hanna Falk (Saturday’s individual skate-sprint winner) and Nilsson. Sweden II finished 0.17 back in second with Ida Ingemarsdotter and Dahlqvist.
In the final, Sweden II’s Ida Ingemarsdotter led through her first two legs before tagging Dahlqvist in third with one lap to go. Meanwhile, Sargent tagged Caldwell in fourth, 0.9 seconds back. On the final lap, with Switzerland, the two Swedish teams, and USA I’s Caldwell skiing together up front, they dropped Switzerland’s Laurien van der Graaff before the finish and went all out for first.
Dahlqvist took it for Sweden II in 13:33.4, Sweden I placed second and USA I third. The same duo of Caldwell and Sargent placed third in the pre-Olympic freestyle team sprint last year in PyeongChang, South Korea. There, Sargent also placed third in a classic sprint for her first World Cup podium. Sunday marked Caldwell’s fourth individual World Cup podium (sixth including team events).
USA II was up to sixth after Randall’s first leg, just 0.5 seconds out of first, and remained 1.8 seconds behind the leaders with two laps to go. On the second-to-last leg, Patterson tagged Randall in ninth, and Randall anchored them to eighth (+7.95).
Germany I finished fourth (+2.11) with Hanna Kolb and Sandra Ringwald, Slovenia was fifth (+4.46) with Alenka Cebasek and Vesna Fabjan, Germany II was sixth (+4.62) with Katharina Hennig and Elisabeth Schicho, and Switzerland seventh (+5.09) with Nadine Fähndrich and van der Graaff.
In the men’s race, Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo teamed up with Kasper Stadaas, and the two won their semifinal by 0.26 seconds over Italy’s Dietmar Nöckler and Saturday’s winner Federico Pellegrino. The U.S. men’s first team of Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton advanced to the final as the last lucky loser in the second semifinal, where they placed fourth, 0.85 seconds behind Russia I’s Andrey Krasnov and Gleb Retivykh in first. Sweden I (Emil Jönsson and Teodor Peterson) and Sweden II (Johan Häggström and Karl-Johan Westberg) also advanced in second and third in that heat.
In the final, which included Great Britain for the first time in team-sprint history (after James Clugnet and Andrew Young clinched the last lucky loser spot in the first semifinal in sixth place), Stadaas set a fast pace on the opening 1.2 k loop. He tagged Klæbo in first, 0.3 seconds ahead of Sweden I, while the U.S. hung in contention 0.9 seconds back in fifth.
Norway continued to lead until Stadaas’s second lap, where Russia’s Krasnov came through the third exchange first, 0.1 ahead of Switzerland’s Jovian Hediger in second. Stadaas tagged Klæbo in fourth, 0.5 seconds back, and Klæbo predictably recovered the lead on the next lap.
After he gave Stadaas a 1.3-second lead at the fourth exchange, Stadaas initially ran with it and extended it significantly. But he ran out of steam on the second half of his last loop and dropped to 10th (last place), 3.7 seconds out of first by the final exchange.
There, Jönsson tagged Peterson in first, 0.9 seconds ahead of Hediger in second. Bjornsen had brought the U.S. to third, 2 seconds back, after leading the chase group in second as they reeled in Stadaas.
On the final lap, Pellegrino came on strong in the last few hundred meters, just as he had done in Saturday’s individual sprint, to take the win for Italy in 12:18.3. Peterson anchored Sweden I to second place, 1 second back, and Russia’s Retivykh took third (+1.2), just ahead of Switzerland’s Roman Schaad in fourth (+1.4).
Hamilton suffered a nasty crash in the middle of the group just before the finish and crossed the line in eighth (+14.2).
Klæbo finished fifth for Norway (+1.9), with Sweden II in sixth (+1.9). Italy II (Stefan Zelger and Giacomo Gabrielli) followed in seventh (+7.3), Great Britain placed ninth (+14.6), and Switzerland II (Erwan Käser and Roman Furger) 10th (+20.9).
This is the last team sprint before a freestyle team sprint is contested at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.