Bakken, “Far from my best sprint, but kept Sturla behind”
Bakken’s first win and first Crystal Globe came a week after his first-ever podium, all in his first season on the World Cup circuit. Winning was not on his mind when he came to the last standing. “When I came in, I was so tired that I was unable to think that if I shoot clean I would have a chance to win. I was just thinking you have to make the way to the finish the shortest and that is to avoid the penalty loop. Fortunately, I took my time on the two last shots and they were good. I am really happy…I went out on the last loop, thinking the stakes are high and I do not know if I can keep this pace to the finish. I knew Sturla will try to outski me before the sprint. When we came to the last couple of hundred meters, I knew I had my chance…far from my best sprint but fortunately, I was able to keep Sturla behind.”
Germany’s Erik Lesser, with two penalties after winning yesterday’s pursuit, battled with Jacquelin over the last loop, but finished fourth, 21.6 seconds back in the final competition of his career. His teammate Phillip Nawrath, with one penalty finished fifth, 31.5 seconds back, while Norway took a third spot in the top six with Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, shooting clean finished sixth, 44.8 seconds back.
The biggest smile, framed by tears of joy of the day came when Quentin Fillon Maillet picked up the Big Crystal Globe for the Men’s World Cup Total Score title, his stated goal before the season ever started.
Laegreid’s second place finish today was enough to jump ahead of Sebastian Samuelsson to second in World Cup Total Score and to the top of the Under 25 rankings, giving the Norwegian the Blue Bib Under 25 title for the second consecutive year. “For sure it tasted much better this year because in the middle of the season I was quite far down in the Total Score. I had troubles with my shape before Christmas and my shooting after…I did not get the season I wanted…After the Olympics, I saw the chance to take some places…and then today it was between me and Samuelsson for who will win the Under 25 Globe.”
The season-ending men’s mass start was again sun-splashed with spring-like warmth softening the snow in spots and like in the women’s the World Cup Mass Start score title on the line. Fillon Maillet with Laegreid at his side set the tempo over the first loop into the first prone stage. The Norwegian cleaned first while the Yellow Bib went to the penalty loop. Desthieux, Bakken, Samuelsson, Jacquelin, and Tero Seppala followed, all perfect a second apart. Another eleven were within the next eight seconds; the competition remained tight.
Laegreid continued to dominate with another very effective and clean second prone stage. Samuelsson ceded no territory doing the same but 5 seconds back. Jacquelin continued to stay in contact in third position with Bakken and Christiansen on his shoulder 6+ seconds back. Eleven of the top 12 remained perfect on the range. Fillon Maillet fell completely out of contention, after three penalties in the two prone stages, 1:08 back.
Jacquelin and Samuelsson challenged the Norwegian leader over the next 3 km loop, with the trio putting a gap of 10 seconds between them and the next chase group. Jacquelin shot very fast, missed twice and went to the loop with Laegreid after one penalty following. Samuelsson shooting a bit more cautiously cleaned to take the lead by 8.1 seconds over Bakken with Christiansen and Laegreid next at 15 and 20 seconds back.
Samuelsson added a few seconds to his lead, then slowed a bit as the others pushed to catch him before the final standing stage. Laegreid was next to the swede as they shot; the Norwegian flew through the five targets, missing one and was gone. Samuelsson missed his last three shots, but Bakken, in contention but not the lead during the whole competition cleaned, getting away 2 seconds in front of his teammate with Lesser third along with Jacquelin, 8 and 8.5 seconds back.
The teammates battled at the front with Lesser and Jacquelin doing the same very close behind. Bakken controlled the pace, with the German/French duo seven seconds back with 1600 meters to go. Going up the last hill behind the range, Bakken dug in deep to retain the lead, outsprinting Laegreid for his first-ever BMW IBU World Cup win. The newest winner crossed the line, immediately face-planting in exhaustion. Jacquelin overpowered Lesser in that same range loop to take third place, for the last podium spot of the 2021/22 season.
Jacquelin closed his season on a high note, despite falling from contention for the World Cup Total Score in recent weeks. “I just tried to take some pleasure…I just wanted to finish (season) in a good way for next year. I felt quite good on the skis, pushed too hard a few times but that is the way I like to do my race, so I am really happy and proud about this third place.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni