Sweden’s Elvira Oeberg, with two penalties, finished fourth, 15.8 seconds back. French teammates, Sophie Chauveau and Lou Jeanmonnot, both with two penalties, finished fifth and sixth, 22.6 and 27.2 seconds back, respectively.
Conditions remained the same for the first women’s mass start of the season as the men had just two hours earlier. Yellow Bib Simon led into the first prone stage and kept her perfect prone shooting streak alive with five shots that put her into the lead. Tandrevold and Elvira followed close behind as seventeen women all shot clean in the first stage.
The second prone stage saw the steak end as Simon picked up her first prone penalty of the season. Elvira took advantage going to 10-for-10 with Hauser and Chevalier-Bouchet on her shoulder, also perfect, as was Tandrevold less than two seconds back. Six more women remained with 21 seconds of Elvira.
The top four skied together into the first standing stage, with now just five women another five seconds back. Chevalier-Bouchet, Magnusson and Chole Chevalier cleaned while the others in the top four picked up penalties, going out in that order with Tandrevold, Hauser and Elvira falling to 21 seconds back.
The leader stretched her lead coming to the last standing, followed by her sister delighting the partisan crowd. The sisters both missed a shot and went to the loop. Hauser and Simon cleaned with the Austrian taking the lead, while Chevalier-Bouchet left the penalty loop onto the tracks just a half-step before Simon; the duo just seven seconds behind Hauser.
Chevalier-Bouchet commented on the last standing stage. ‘I did not think, except there was my sister on my left side so I was, ‘okay she is there. I know her. I heard her breath but had to focus on myself. I lost only one bullet…It would have been great if we had stopped the race after the third shooting!”
Hauser skied in front on the last loop with no one challenging, while Simon shadowed her teammate, sticking like glue, with Elvira lurking just three seconds behind. Hauser jubilantly crossed the line in victory with a little jump.
Describing her last loop, Hauser admitted to being a bit worried. “Somehow I was in my own race. I was really lucky when Elvira was in front of me. I was in a train and could follow her. In the end, I was really scared about the last loop, because I knew the French girls were just behind me. I know Julia is one of the best on the last lap…I always pushed and pushed and on the last uphill, I saw I had more seconds. On the downhill, I just wanted to stay safe. It was nice to run into the finish and celebrate the victory.”
Chevalier-Bouchet fell behind Simon settling for third place. She was elated to finally make the podium. “I am very happy to make the podium after my December. It was not bad, but it was not good so I am really happy.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni