Johannes Thingnes Boe sprints to Hochfilzen Relay win
Johannes Thingnes Boe made it a three-for-three weekend in Hochfilzen with a thrilling last loop to claim the men’s relay victory for the Norwegian team of the Johannes and Tarjei Boe, Erlend Bjöntegaard, and Johannes Dale in 1:14:44.2. Leaving 13.5 seconds behind Germany’s Benedikt Doll, the sprint/pursuit winner closed that gap and then sprinted past the German in the last 100 meters for a two-second win. Norway had one penalty and seven spare rounds, while Germany in second place used only six spares. France, with one penalty and eight spares, 51.9 seconds back.
“Have to Believe”
Still breathing hard, with a Hochfilzen hat trick in hand, Johannes admitted, “Now I am tired. It has been such a great weekend, on the last loop, you have to try; you have to believe and try to make a good push from behind. It is tough also for the guy in the front. I was really tired in the last uphill, but I managed to save some power for the sprint.”
He later emphasized just how much that last loop took out of him. “I think this was my worst (in terms of how he felt) last loop ever. Legs are really tired now, 15-20 minutes later after the race. It was tough…I think it is good to win even if we are not perfect, but the next time we need to improve because we were a little bit lucky to get the victory today.”
Canada, with another great performance, their best since an IBU WCH Relay Bronze in 2016 finished fourth, also with six spares, 1:28.7 back. Czech Republic with nine spares finished fifth, 1:52.2 back while Russia with a penalty and eight spares was sixth, 2:01.7 back.
Dale Puts Norway on Top
Twenty-seven teams set off in the men’s relay with bright sunshine on the snow-covered mountains providing a perfect backdrop for the last competition in Hochfilzen.
Johannes Dale wasted no time in putting Norway in front: ten shots, ten hits; he tagged Erlend Bjöntegaard with a 19.5 second lead over Germany with France, Canada and Russia next. The Norwegian missed four prone shots and picked up a penalty to fall 35 seconds behind clean-shooting Emilien Jacquelin of France who took over the lead ahead of surprising Canada. Germany and Russia lurked 9 seconds back. Canada’s Scott Gow cleaned standing faster than his rivals, leading Germany and France by less than 4 seconds out of the stadium.
Germany in Front
By the time second leg Johannes Kuehn tagged Arnd Peiffer, the Germans had pulled to a 21 second lead over France with Canada and Slovenia next. Norway was in 7th, 53 seconds back when Tarjei took over. Peiffer, France’s Fabien Claude and Tarjei cleaned in five shots. This gave Germany a 19 second lead over the French team with Canada, Czech Republic next and Norway up to fifth, 41 seconds back. The Olympic and World Champion shot standing all alone, closing the five targets with ease. Claude went to the penalty loop while Tarjei blew through his five targets to move to second but still far back.
At the last exchange, Benedikt Doll took over with a 43-second gap between him and Johannes. Canada’s Christian Gow was another 9 seconds back with France next. The Hochfilzen double winner immediately took 7 seconds back by the first split while Quentin Fillon Maillet moved past the Canadian. Doll cleaned prone quickly as did the Norwegian; the German lead remained the same.
Both Doll and Johannes needed two spares to clean the standing stage; the gap closed to 13 seconds with the Norwegian’s faster cadence. Fillon Maillet upped his day to 10-for-10 to leave solidly in third position heading to the finish. At the 6.1 km split, the German lead was down to 5.4 seconds. In the last of the uphills, Johannes made a powerful move to get on the tails of the German’s skis. He then blew past his rival with a furious last 100 meter sprint, raising his hands in victory. Fillon Maillet brought his team home for the last podium position.
Tarjei said having his brother as the anchor leg is an extra edge. “We always believe. And you know when you have Johannes in the end; it is like the targets are a little bigger. So we thought it was possible. The girls showed that. You always believe, but it also depends on the other nations.”
Photos: Evgeny Tumashov