Tarjei Boe Triumphs in Oberhof Mass Start
Norwegian Tarjei Boe’s last standing stage penalty in this afternoon’s Oberhof men’s 15 km mass start was just a bump in his road to victory. The Norwegian veteran came off the penalty loop, promptly skied past his rivals, for a 37:41.9 triumph, his second win of the season. Austria’s Felix Leitner shot clean in second place for his first-ever BMW IBU World Cup podium, 3.6 seconds back. Switzerland’s Benjamin Weger also shooting clean finished third, 7.8 seconds back for his first podium finish since February 11, 2012 when he also finished third in the Kontiolahti sprint.
Tactics and Seeing Black
Tarjei explained his tactics and the last loop that led to the win today. “It was one of the hardest of my career. I had a tactic to have 10 seconds into the last shooting so I could miss one and still take them. That is what happened. When I had a chance, I knew that I had to attack early because I am not a sprinter. I got the gap I wanted. In th end I just saw black and did not know when I crossed the finish line.”
He further explained, “I had to attack where I felt strongest and see what happened. The gap I got was, I guess a little smaller and smaller in the end; I am a little lucky and really happy I took It.”
Reversal of Fortune
Today was a complete reversal of fortune for Tarjei. Last week, he came to the last standing in a position to win and missed three shots and finished third. “Last week, I said to myself ‘you have to shoot clean to win.’ When the race was over I saw that I could have won with two mistakes. I then told myself that you never know what it will take; do not make it worse than it has to be…Today, I said to myself. ‘you can win with one and I did. Biathlon is hard enough that you do not need to make it harder in your head!”
Lukas Hofer of Italy with two penalties outsprinted Austria’s Simon Eder for fourth place, 12.5 seconds back, with the clean-shooting Eder, 12.7 seconds back. Matvey Eliseev of Russia, with one penalty, finished sixth, 20.1 seconds back.
Fifteen Clean in First Prone
The last competition day in Oberhof was typical of much of the past 12 days with heavy overcast skies, -6C temperature and virtually no shooting range wind. Johannes Thingnes Boe led the pack into the stadium for the first prone stage, shot carefully but picked up a penalty. Ahead of him, 15 men shot clean led by Hofer, Laegreid, Tarjei and Johannes Dale, with just 10 seconds from Hofer to number 15 Erlend Bjoentegaard.
By the time they reentered the stadium, the Yellow Bib had rejoined the lead group. This time Laegreid shot on lane 1 and cleaned the second prone. However, Jacquelin was much quicker, getting away in the top spot with Benjamin Weger, Erik Lesser ahead of Laegreid. The clean-shooting group was now down to 10 men, with Hofer and Dmytro Pidruchnyi filling out the top 12, all within 14 seconds.
Lesser and Tarjei
With light snow falling, Tarjei moved to the front, setting the pace over the next 3 km and stretching out the lead group into a long train. Jacquelin fell before the range, breaking his rifle and dropping from the lead group. Lesser got the jump on the field with a lightening fast first standing, with Tarjei just a hair slower, followed in quick succession by Weger, Simon Eder, Matvey Eliseev and Felix Leitner. The elite 15-for-15 club now only had seven members, with ninth position Bjoentegaard the last of the perfect shooters.
Setting the Pace
Once again, Tarjei immediately jumped into the pacer’s position, trying to separate him from the trailing pack of five, pulling out to a 10-second advantage by 11 km. The leader missed his second shot and went to the penalty loop. Meanwhile, Weger, Eder and Leitner all cleaned, going out together. Tarjei after flying around the penalty loop left the stadium 7 seconds later in hot pursuit.
Skiing to Victory
The Norwegian was quickly up alongside Weger in front, with Leitner just a second behind. He and Leitner then powered past the Swiss star, with Tarjei adding seconds and meters between himself and the others. Leitner and Weger battled with Eder just behind them. Tarjei pushed hard all the way into the finish for his second win of the season. In the last few hundred meters, Leitner pulled just ahead of Weger for second place, while Hofer made a mad dash near the finish to secure fourth place over Eder.
Over Happy Leitner
Leitner was thrilled with his first-ever podium. “I feel really good. It has been up and down in the last week. But I know I can shot clean, but I do not do it every time. I know that I can run fast. I am really happy that today I could combine it. I got second and am over-happy.”
Enjoy the Moment
Weger was simply caught up in the moment with his first podium in nine years. “It has been nine years. I had one, two three and expected to continue like that, Then I fell in a hole…I saw how difficult this sport is…This podium; this was my goal every day I trained to reach this podium again…This moment is so important that I do not want to think about next week in Antholz or World Championships. I am just trying to enjoy the moment that I was working for, for such a long time.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni