“I was never safe”
The winner admitted he was lucky to clean the last stage for the victory. “I had a good amount of mistakes during my career, but mostly in these situations, I managed to shoot clean. Lucky for me the others went to the penalty loop. I was never safe. I was pushing hard from the start today; good finish in the end…happy.”
After a slow start to the season, JT found his footing taking three victories in the last 10 days to slip back into the Yellow Bib as 2023 closes. “That is the perfect ending (to 2023). I felt it was hard this week to find the right balance between saving energy and not thinking so much about the holidays at home. But now suddenly finished with all the races, my head is already with my kids and my wife. I am looking forward to getting home!”
Dale-Skjevdal, with one penalty finished second, taking his second podium of the season, 14.6 seconds back. Tarjei, also with one penalty, faded in the last loop to finish third, 21.8 seconds back.
Sweden’s Martin Ponsiluoma with three penalties broke up a Norwegian Flower Ceremony sweep finishing fourth for the third time this season, 43.5 seconds back. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and Vebjoern Soerum, both with three penalties, finished fifth and sixth, 49.8 and 51.1 seconds back, giving the Norwegians five of the six top places.
The season’s first men’s mass start had beautiful, windless, almost spring-like sunny +4C conditions. JT led into the first prone, missed a shot, opening the door for Emilien Jacquelin shooting very fast and clean, 8 seconds up on Tarjei and Dale-Skjevdal. The defending World Cup Total Score titlist left 14th, 24 seconds back. Jacquelin blew away the second prone stage, extending his lead to 14 seconds over Tarjei, Dale-Skjevdal and JT, skiing a strong second loop, rejoining the leaders.
The chase group blossomed to six, led by JT approaching the first standing stage. Tarjei, Dale-Skjevdal and Soerum cleaned, while Jacquelin shooting very fast missed his first shot of the day, leaving fourth, 17.3 seconds back with JT after a second penalty on his shoulder.
JT pushing the pace, clawed his way back by the final standing stage. With the pressure on, the Yellow Bib cleaned, taking an 18-second lead over his brother and Dale-Skjevdal, both with penalties.
Yesterday’s pursuit winner ran the last loop unchallenged for the victory. Dale-Skjevdal passed Tarjei midway through the last loop for second place, setting up the Norwegian podium sweep.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni