Norway’s Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen sprints to Oberhof relay win
Norway’s Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen outsprinted France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet in the final 100 meters to claim the Oberhof men’s relay win this afternoon in 1:19:23.2. Christiansen and his teammates Lars Helge Birkeland, Johannes Dale and Erlend Bjöntegaard had two penalties and eight spare rounds, giving Norway’s men their third relay win this season , matching their women’s team who won earlier today. France, with two penalties and six spares finished 4.4 seconds back. Germany with two penalties and fourteen spares finished third, 48.2 seconds back.
“A Fun Game”
Christiansen explained how he adjusted his shooting in the last standing, and then battled with Fillon Maillet. “I think it was difficult (shooting) conditions even on lane one, even though it was hidden a bit from the wind. So you see I did not miss the middle target but shot at the next one because the wind was blowing…then I started missing at the end. I tried the best as I could; not to be so slow and lose so much time. I saw Quentin passing just in front of me as I left the penalty loop…I just tried to keep the distance…but I caught him pretty early and then it was a fun game between us; it really was.”
Russia with nine spares finished fourth, 1:09 back. Early leader Belarus finished fifth with one penalty and twelve spare rounds, 1:54 back. Slovenia with fourteen spares finished sixth, 2:43.7 back.
Norway on Top
Conditions changed very little by the time the 26 men’s teams started the relay. Birkeland back in his leadoff leg spot did his usual solid job, firing 10 shots and closing all ten targets to give the Norwegians a slight lead over Italy and Belarus as he tagged Bjöntegaard. Dominik Windisch took over for Italy, but crashed before the prone stage, falling out of contention.
Sergei Bocharnikov cleaned prone in five shots while the Norwegian needed two spare rounds giving Belarus a 13 second lead with Russia and Germany next. The Belarusian steadily closed all five targets to get out of standing in first position. His Norwegian and Russian rival matched to head to the second exchange in second and third. By the exchange, Bjöntegaard had made up the 13 seconds on Belarus to tag Dale in the top spot, while Michal Krcmar pulled Czech Republic up to third over Russia. Martin Fourcade after taking over from Emilien Jacquelin in 21st position moved the French team up to 5th, 55 seconds back when he tagged Simon Desthieux.
Dale Holds Top Spot
The 22-year-old Norwegian solidified his lead with a deliberate but clean prone stage, putting Raman Yaliotnau 26 seconds back while Czech Republic held on in third. In the standing stage, everyone struggled with the ever-increasing wind on the range. Dale ended up with a single tour of the penalty loop but still remained in the top spot, 26 seconds ahead of Yaliotnau, while Desthieux with just one spare round jumped into third just 3 seconds out of second and Germany’s Arnd Peiffer hot on the French team’s heels as they headed for the final exchange. Dale tagged Christiansen with 31 second lead while Benedikt Doll took over for Germany in the second spot, with Nikita Labastau and Quentin Fillon Maillet also in striking distance.
Last Loop Battle
Christiansen easily cleaned the prone stage as did Doll and Fillon Maillet, but the second and third place teams remained 30 seconds back. The next two teams, Russia and Belarus were another 30 seconds back. Christiansen used all his spares and wnet to the penalty loop, while Fillon Maillet used just one to take a six-second lead going into the last 2.5 km loop. Doll also went to the loop and came out in third. The Norwegian moved quickly alongside his French rival with the two trading the lead several times. With 500 meters to go, they were side-by-side. On the last downhill into the stadium, the Norwegian pulled past Fillon Maillet, carrying his momentum with a final sprint in the last 50 meters to the finish for Norway’s third relay win of the season. Doll held on for third place.
Have to Fight
Desthieux admitted the comeback by his team was an uphill battle. “The beginning of the race was not easy for us. I was with Quentin in the warm-up area. When he saw that (Jacquelin’s two penalties), he said we have to continue to fight in the race because in Oberhof, it is always possible. It was true.”