Julian Eberhard Sprints to Kontiolahti Mass Start Victory
Austria’s Julian Eberhard came from 17.2 seconds back after the final standing stage, flying over the last 3K loop to claim his first-ever mass start victory this afternoon in 38:04.8. Eberhard, with two penalties made his final move after tangling skis with Russia’s Anton Shipulin and then quickly passing Martin Fourcade who finished second, also with two penalties, 6.9 seconds back. Shipulin with one penalty finished third, 19.3 seconds back.
The win was Eberhard’s fourth career victory, his first this season and his first-ever in a mass start.
Fourth through sixth places were an all-German affair with Benedikt Doll, Erik Lesser, and Arnd Peiffer finishing in succession, 21.9, 23.9 and 27.1 seconds back. They had two, one and two penalties, respectively.
Seventeen Clean First Prone; Fourcade, Two Penalties, in 23rd
Conditions this afternoon were similar to yesterday’s mixed relays, a bit below freezing with overcast skies and the usual fluttering of the wind flags on the shooting range. The group stayed close over the first 3K loop, with no one particularly pushing the pace. Seventeen men led by Shipulin cleaned the first prone. Leaving the stadium, fifteen of them were within 10 seconds with Schempp and Desthieux the closest to the Russian. The biggest casualty of the first stage was martin Fourcade with two penalties, back in 23rd position.
Johannes took control of the pace as the field approached the second prone stage, setting up on lane one with Shipulin next to him. The top two missed a shot and the top group changed dramatically with Benedikt Doll, Arnd Peiffer and Julian Eberhard going out in close succession after cleaning. The number now shooting perfectly was down to eight; Fourcade cleaned to move up to 15th, but 39 seconds off the pace.
The German/Austrian trio skied together over the next loop, well ahead of the chasing field, led by Johannes 18 seconds back. Peiffer, the only one of the three to clean the first standing stage, took the lead. However, Eberhard and Doll maintained their second and third positions, with Shipulin and now Fourcade after another clean stage in fourth and fifth, from 15.1 to 22.3 seconds back for second through fifth. By the 10.2K split, Eberhard, Shipulin and Fourcade were leading the pack of five chasing Peiffer.
Fourcade Takes Control
Peiffer had a 12 second lead as he set up on lane one for the decisive last standing stage. Peiffer missed two shots; Eberhard one, but Fourcade cleaned as did Shipulin. They left 5 seconds apart in a last loop battle for the win. Eberhard left comfortably in third, but 17.2 seconds behind Fourcade.
a small incident on the last brige ruled Shipulin out of the last sprint, but what a strong skiing for @OESVbiathlon Eberhard to take the first win of his season in #KON18, the first in a mass start! Join us for the flowers on https://t.co/Z1cUg23KzH pic.twitter.com/qIHiJ6Cp9K— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) March 11, 2018
A Fall; Eberhard Skis to the Win
Fourcade pushed hard out of the stadium, but Shipulin pushed harder to get to Fourcade's shoulder with 180meters to go. Eberhard was closing as they approached the Wall. Fourcade upped the tempo but Shipulin matched, with Eberhard 4 seconds back. Shipulin fell on the last bridge as he and Eberhard tangled skis. Eberhard moved up to Fourcade’s side and quickly passed to take the win. Fourcade showed to take second with Shipulin crossing in third.
The winner explained what happened on the bridge. “I wanted to be in a sprint with all three, but the bridge is too small for this. I came up the bridge with too much speed. Anton and I were in the same track and there was an accident. I apologized to Anton at the finish but he said these things can happen and it was ok with him.”
Eberhard had the same attitude as yesterday as he left after the last standing stage. “Yesterday I said I did not want to be fourth, and today I just wanted to keep third. But after half of the loop, I saw it was possible to connect to the leading group. Then in the last 200 meters, I knew it was possible to make the victory and I am happy to do this.”
Difficult Week for Fourcade
Fourcade admitted this week was hard. “I tried to compete in the sprint but could not. I went back to my room and did not train. I had only 3 hours of training this week. It is really difficult to race in this situation without any feeling or training. I did not know what to expect today but I am quite satisfied. I would have liked to win, but I used too much energy trying to come back in the early laps and had no energy when it was time to attack.”
Shipulin Not Upset
Shipulin was not upset with the fall, but is pleased with his shape. “I hold no grudge against Julian. This can happen in sports and is all fair…I am in good shape and want to preserve this and perform my best in the last World Cups.”