French Victory in Pokljuka Mixed Relay
France, with Anais Bescond, Justine Braisaz, Martin Fourcade and Simon Desthieux won the first mixed relay of the season in 1:10:02.8 using five spare rounds. The Swiss team surprised with a second place finish, using nine spares, 38.7 seconds back, while Italy finished third, with one penalty and eight spares, 52.1 seconds back.
Pokljuka Mixed Relay
Russia finished fourth, 1:17.3 back, while early leaders Finland was fifth, 1:30.9 back. Norway finished sixth, 1:51.1 back.
Vittozzi and Eder
The first mixed relay of the season closed the first day of the new season, with the same good conditions as the earlier single mixed relay, clear and almost windless. Olympic Bronze medalists Italy took control immediately with leadoff leg Lisa Vittozzi cleaning quickly twice, the only women in the field to do so. She left the range with a 4 second lead over France’s Anais Bescond and a 15 second lead over Finland’s Mari Eder. But at the first exchange, Eder tagged first, followed by Bescond and Vittozzi third.
Mäkäräinen Flies Away
The second leg saw the top-ranked woman Kaisa Mäkäräinen stretch Finland’s lead to 19 seconds with a fast clean prone stage and a single spare in standing. Italy’s Dorothea Wierer and France’s Justine Braisaz both went 5-for-5 in standing. Mäkäräinen flew over the last loop to tag Tero Seppälä with a 29.4 second edge over Italy, and 39.7 seconds over Braisaz.
Fourcade Takes Over
The men’s legs with Martin Fourcade and Simon Desthieux set up the French victory. One prone spare round cost Seppälä half of his lead, as the top man, Martin Fourcade shot deliberately but clean. Switzerland’s Benjamin Weger set up his team by matching Fourcade to move into the third spot, with Italy’s Dominik Windisch visiting the penalty loop. Fourcade pushed the pace into the standing stage cleaned to take the lead while the young Finn went to the penalty loop.
It's celebration time for @FedFranceSki, @swissskiteam and @Fisiofficial who are the Top 3 in the Mixed Relay of @BiatlonPokljuka #POK18 🎉— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) December 2, 2018
Stick around for the medal ceremony live on https://t.co/Z1cUg2llYh pic.twitter.com/PqxSMQNkCW
Fourcade tagged Simon Desthieux with a 15.2 second gap on the Weger who tagged Jeremy Finello, with Finland at 59.7 seconds back. Desthieux cleaned and was gone from prone before Switzerland’s Finello fired a shot. Taking the tag in fifth position, Italy’s Lukas Hofer burned up the first loop, cleaned prone and moved his team up to third, 1:13 back. Desthieux shot very fast in standing resulting in two spare rounds to secure the win for the Olympic Champions, while Finello needed three spares to clean, but ensuring second place. Hofer made it 10-for-10 on the range to secure the third podium spot.
Nerves for Bescond
French leadoff leg Bescond was a bit nervous today. “I was pretty stressed and excited; it is special to start the season with the team; in the end, it was pretty okay.”
Fourcade, who set up the victory, was focused on one thing. “I did not have my best day on the tracks, but I knew shooting was the key today and I am really satisfied it worked.”
*Historic Podium for Switzerland
*Switzerland’s second place was a historic result, their first-ever relay podium, which elated the whole team. Birthday girl Elisa Gasparin said, “I have not words; of course I am happy. Everyone on our team showed a good race; the guys took over and did a really good job. It is nice to see that our hard work paid off.” Her teammate Weger added, “It could not get much better than this…it showed what we can do.”
Hofer who sealed Italy’s podium spot knew he had a job to do. “I tried to close the gap as soon as possible on the first loop and get a clean first shooting, then it was normal race, this was a good ice breaker for the season.”