Lars Helge Birkeland and Elisabeth Hoegberg win IBU Cup pursuits
Lars Helge Birkeland of Norway took the win in the men's pursuit at IBU Cup 7 in Martell, finishing in 33:22.4 with two penalties. In the afternoon, Elisabeth Hoegberg of Sweden doubled up her victory by taking the women's pursuit in 31:53.8 with a single penalty.
Second place in the men’s competition went to Germany’s Erik Lesser, who matched Birkeland on the shooting range and lost by mere .5 seconds. Another German Lucas Fratzscher became third with a single penalty, 31.7 seconds back.
Roman Rees of Germany finished fourth with two misses, 38.6 seconds back. Norway’s Endre Stroemsheim, despite five penalties, finished fifth, which allowed him to keep the Men's IBU Cup Total Score lead. However, now only two points separate him from the second-placed Fratzscher. Tomas Krupcik of Czech Republic took sixth position with three penalties, 1:00.1 behind.
The final day at IBU Cup 7, the last event before the IBU Open European Championships, greeted everyone with bright skies and light wind on the shooting range. Starting the competition with bib 3 and two perfect shootings, Birkeland was just .8 seconds behind bib 9 Lesser, who was also accurate on the range.
Despite collecting a penalty in the first standing, this duo kept their lead, even increasing their advantage to 37.3 seconds. Coming to the final shooting together, they once again matched each other with one miss, leaving the stadium .5 seconds apart. The Norwegian and the German kept close during the final lap and last meters, where Birkeland proved to be a bit faster, finishing just .5 seconds ahead of Lesser.
🇳🇴L.H.Birkeland, "That was a really tough fight on the final loop and I was so tired on the last uphill, but seems that Erik was also tired. It was really close, but I am happy I kept the lead."— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) February 16, 2020
📸: @foto_deubert pic.twitter.com/Rw46R4koVE
While Birkeland and Lesser where battling for the top spot from the beginning, bib number 24 Fratzscher started his competition with a penalty at the first prone and a 1:34-gap from the leading Norwegian. Perfect shooting at the next three stages saw him moving up in the standings to third place after the final bout, which he securely kept until the finish line.
Fourth place went to Anna Nikulina with two penalties, 1:28.2 behind. Ukraine’s Yuliia Zhuravok, who was third in the sprint, today had two penalties and finished fifth, 1:39.0 back. Victoria Slivko of Russia became sixth with two penalties, 1:44.8 behind.
A winning recipe
Entering the competition with bib 1 and 37 seconds advantage on his closest rival, Hoegberg was never challenged by others from the beginning until the end. She missed once at the second prone, but was accurate at the next two standings, which saw her leaving for the final loop with a comfortable 56.3-second lead. Knowing that her rivals are too far back, Hoegberg enjoyed her last loop nd securely crossed the line in first, taking ther second win in a row.
🇸🇪E.Hoegberg, "As I promised @EmmaN_93, yesterday we went to the town and had 🍕, so I think it was a good recipe for today's pursuit win! 😁 I'm happy with my shooting and it was great to have 0 at the final standing, so I could just enjoy the last loop!"— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) February 16, 2020
📸: @foto_deubert pic.twitter.com/wo54fApLw9
Like the Swede, Pavlova with bib 5 started her competition with a clean prone stage. That saw her moving up to second position, which she also kept through the competition despite a mistake on the final lap. With no rivals behind, the Russian left the penalty loop with a 45-second advantage, calmly finishing in second. While the faith of the first and second places was decided early in the competition, the battle for the last podium spot was decided at the last shooting.
Zhuravok, who kept third position during the first three stages, despite a miss at the first standing, collected one more penalty at the last standing, which saw her falling out of the contention. Bib 23 Kaisheva missed once at the third shooting, leaving the stadium 41 seconds behind the Ukrainian. However, accurate final standing and great speed, allowed the Russian to move up to the third position, which she kept until the finish line.
Photos: Harald Deubert