Sturla Holm Laegreid Surges to Oberhof Pursuit Victory, Norwegian Sweep
Sturla Holm Laegreid of Norway came to the last standing stage in the Oberhof men’s 12.5 km pursuit in third position 34.3 seconds behind leader Tarjei Boe. Laegreid, despite two penalties on the day left the stadium with a 14 second lead that turned into a 36:01.8 win, his fourth BMW IBU World Cup victory this season. Laegreid’s teammate Johannes Dale, also with two penalties, finished second, 15.6 seconds back. Tarjei, with three penalties finished third, 25.4 seconds back, giving Norway its second consecutive podium sweep of the weekend.
Seizing the Opportunity
Laegreid seized the opportunity in the last standing stage when he realized his rivals were missing shots. “It was crazy seeing the other guys miss, then I saw the opportunity and took it, but I did not manage to shoot clean. Then with only one mistake I was able to take the lead; I had 10 seconds to Dale. Normally, I think he would take me but today I managed to keep him behind me so I am satisfied with that.”
On the endlessly hard Oberhof tracks, he added, “It is so hard. You know you have to struggle all the way. You can sometimes in the beginning feel it is too easy and go harder, but then you get it in the last loop. It is a difficult track; you have to be smart.”
Fabien Claude of France finished fourth, with two penalties, 30.7 seconds back. Lukas Hofer of Italy finished fifth, 36.4 seconds back with four penalties. Jakov Fak of Slovenia with a single missed target finished sixth, 41.2 seconds back
Norwegians Setting the Pace
The men’s pursuit kicked off just like the women’s earlier, with another Norwegian Johannes out front, setting the pace under similar light fog and windless conditions. Like Eckhoff, he was aggressive in the first loop, trying to stretch the lead over his brother and the other 58 men. A missed shot in the first prone by Johannes and a clean stage by Tarjei put the elder Boe brother 1 second up as the set out for the second loop. Laegreid, Hofer and Dale all cleaned to follow at 10, 12 and 15 seconds back.
The brothers quickly put the hammer down pulling another 9 seconds ahead of the Laegreid trio by the next split. Shooting together in the second prone stage, Tarjei again cleaned while his brother headed to the penalty loop of one tour. Dale also cleaned to go out 20 seconds back with Johannes while Laegreid and Hofer both missed to fall another 20 seconds back.
Tarjei Takes the Lead
Tarjei held his advantage into the first standing stage, fired three quick perfect shots, hesitated and closed the last two, securing the top spot. On lane two, the Yellow Bib missed four times ending his podium quest while Dale also moved to 15-for-15 and sole control of second position with Laegreid now up to third, but another 15 seconds back and Hofer with another penalty in fourth.
Missed Shots Upset Order
By the 9.5 km split, Tarjei was 15 seconds ahead of Dale who had slowly clawed back a couple of seconds. Shockingly, the order changed in seconds. Tarjei missed the first three shots, Dale missed two, Laegreid one, Hofer two and Fak one. When they all exited the penalty loop, it was still an all-Norway day with Laegreid jumping into the lead, 10 seconds ahead of Dale who was another 10 in front of Tarjei.
Not Good Enough
Dale commented on his last stage shooting. “I was a bit afraid that I would lose my podium. When you shoot two on the last it is never good and should never be good enough. But we had some gap to the guys behind. I knew they would have to be clean to go out with us. I looked at the flat screen while I was on the penalty loop and saw some misses so knew I was going to battle for first or second place.”
Sweep Number Two
Laegreid had no problem holding his lead on the last loop to lead his teammates home for a second consecutive Norwegian podium sweep.
Fog Between My Ears
Tarjei was disappointed with his day but knew he controlled his own fate. “I am frustrated. You have it in your hand and it slips away fright in front of you. But it was my own fault. I was not unlucky, did not fall or break a fall, nothing I could not control. This was in my hands and did not deliver what you need to win…If there was fog today, it was only between my ears!...I played my cards perfectly until the last shooting both on the range and the tracks. I felt good on the skis and did what I planned, but when I missed that first shot on the final shooting, it was sort of empty. I did not manage to switch back the mode in my head…and did not shoot the way I am supposed to do in these situations.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni