Laegreid commented on his long-time friend’s victory. “Me and Johannes are very close. We are the same age and we have been friends for a long time. After he was out of the team last season, he has trained like hell, better than all of us. I am really happy to see that he is on top. If I did not win, it’s him I want to win…You can see how much it means to him. So, congrats to him.”
Dale responded, “I told him I was glad to share the podium with him, because we have known each other since we were small kids. Sharing the podium with him and JT is incredible!”
Their teammate Johannes Thingnes Boe with three penalties, finished third.
Fourth place Fabien Claude of France, with three penalties,17.2 seconds back was the only non-Norwegian in the top six. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, with three penalties, finished fifth, 19.1 seconds back. Tarjei Boe, with two penalties, finished in a season-best sixth place, 20.6 seconds back.
The first mass start of the 2022/23 season went off under sunny skies with the temperature at +3C and the same light winds on the range as yesterday. JT led the field into the first prone stage; he and Laegreid cleaned simultaneously with Christiansen doing the same a split second slower. The three left in a pack with a dozen other clean-shooting men following within 21 seconds. By the 4 km split, Dale joined his teammates in the lead group.
The Norwegian quartet all cleaned the second prone stage easily, with Laegreid the fastest, taking the lead followed by Christiansen, JT and Dale 7.9 seconds back. The lead pack turned into a tightly packed bunch, working together over the next loop going into the first standing stage. The Yellow Bib shot on lane one and missed as did Laegreid and Christiansen, while Dale with two penalties fell back to 25 seconds off the pace. As he fell back, Filip Fjeld Andersen cleaned his third stage replacing Dale in the lead pack with Sebastian Stalder at 8.2 seconds back and a group of five hunting at just over 20 seconds back.
JT elaborated on the Norwegian pack throughout the competition. “We are so many strong athletes on the tracks with the skis we had today. Everyone thought no matter how fast it would go; I will follow. We were sharing the pace in the front.
By the final standing stage, the trio of JT, Laegreid and Christiansen had five seconds on Andersen, with Dale still lagging at 24 seconds back admitted, “I was not thinking about the podium. I was 24 seconds back. I was just focused on what I had to do in the last shooting.”
Laegreid added a penalty, taking the lead while the Yellow Bib missed twice, falling 18 seconds back. Stalder went to 20-for-20, moving into second with Dale coming back with a clean stage to leave in third position, 10 seconds back.
Laegreid pushed the last loop, clearly in control until Dale challenged going onto his shoulder 1500 meters before the finish. He described what happened. “I saw I was second on the big screen and my body was pumped up with adrenalin. The tactic was to go quite hard out but I wanted to take every bit step-by-step. When I understood that I was closer and closer, I really pushed with all I had in the uphills. Then I managed to tighten the gap; then it was just to wait for the right moment. I went down deep in the basement to collect all the powers I had."
JT powered past Stalder who faded from contention early in the last loop to finish third, shrugging his shoulders to the crowd in the stadium as he finished.
The Yellow Bib was not disappointed. “I am really happy. It could have ended up anywhere from first to sixth. It was a very tight mass start. In the end it was a big fight…It shows that if you do not go clean, someone else will and Dale did it. It was a fantastic day for the Norwegian Biathlon Federation.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni