WOW! We were treated to two thrilling races in Antholz today both of which went down to the final few metres! It was almost as good as getting two scoops of gelato for free!
The first race was the women’s mass start. It was a close race on the prone stages with Dorothea Wierer taking the lead after the first shoot followed by Hanna Oberg and Lisa Hauser. Julia Simon, last week’s winner was 28th after one miss. After the second prone it was Oberg and teammate Linn Persson who were out first but with another 9 women shooting clean nothing was decided yet.
The third shoot was where the field started to thin out. It was Svetlana Mironova who took the lead over Franziska Preuss and fellow Russian Evgeniya Pavlova all of whom were now 15/15 on the range.
However at the last shoot it all fell apart for the Russians. Mironova missed two as did Pavlova and Preuss missed one. Behind them Hanna Oberg shot clean, as did Lisa Hauser and they were now 1 and 2 leaving the range. Preuss slotted into third after her penalty loop but right after her was Julia Simon! After missing one shot on each of the first three shoots she cleaned number four and was in sight of the lead.
She caught and passed all three of the women ahead of her but Hanna Oberg was strong enough to hang on to her. It would be a race between these two for the win. It was Simon who took it in the end but just by a whisker! Oberg tried her best to pass Simon before the line but the Frenchwoman took her second mass start victory in a row by just 0.2 of a second.
Hauser stayed in third adding to her stunning results since the Christmas break. Preuss was 4th, Marketa Davidova 5th and Mironova 6th. Roeiseland and Eckhoff were 7th and 8th missing 3 and 4 shots respectively. Karoline Knotten was the only woman in the field to hit 20/20.
Later we had the men’s relay which saw more close racing. It was Norway who took the early lead after leg one with Sturla Laegried exchanging first in front of Erik Lesser and Anton Babikov. Last week’s winners France were just 9 seconds back after a solid leg from Antonin Guigonnat.
An impressive leg from Matvey Eliseev put Russia into the lead after leg two. He was ahead of Italy with Tommaso Giacomel and Germany with Roman Rees. Norway were on the penalty loop with Johannes Dale repeating his mistake from last week. France were still going along nicely just 15 seconds behind the leaders despite Quentin Fillon Maillet needing 4 spares.
Alexander Loginov took over for Russia on leg three. He cleaned the prone but had a nightmare on the standing and was on the penalty loop. This let France into the lead with Simon Destheiux using just 1 spare. He was just ahead of Germany’s Arnd Peiffer and Norway were back in the race in fourth after a strong leg from Tarjei Boe.
Emilien Jacquelin found himself in front alongside Benedikt Doll with Eduard Latypov a few seconds back. However the pace wasn’t high at the front and Johannes Thingnes Boe caught them all by the first prone which he cleaned and headed off in the lead.
He arrived at the final shoot with a small gap and went for a quick first shot. He got 4 out of 5 and needed to use a spare. Jacquelin meanwhile hit 5/5 and left the range only a few seconds behind Boe. Latypov needed all 3 of his spares and Doll 2 of his so we had a race for first and third!
Boe tried to break Jacquelin on the uphills but couldn’t shake him off. In the final few hundred metres Jacquelin took the lead and there was nothing Boe could do to stop France winning their second relay in a row. It was very similar to the World Championship pursuit finish on the same course here last year.
Russia took third with Latypov skiing away from a tired looking Doll in the final couple of hundred metres.
Italy were 5th, Austria 6th and there was a great result for the Finnish team in 7th.
Follow biathlon23 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!