Christiansen, “Tricky with this gap on the last loop”
Christiansen after anchoring two consecutive relay victories, thought having a big lead was harder than a man-to-man battle. “We are extremely happy with the win today. I think the team overall did a very good job, skiing and shooting. Five extra bullets is pretty decent, even if our record at Hochfilzen is one! It is always tricky to have this gap on the last loop; in biathlon everything is possible. I think it is a little bit more stressful having this gap than coming in man-to-man, shoulder-to-shoulder, because you get as little bit (messed up) in your head and it is tough to stand there with a big gap. I tried to take my time; I am happy of course. Two lost shots; I know what Siggi (Siegfried Mazet) is going to tell me but all-in-all a good race.”
Germany finished fourth, 1:00:00 back. Sweden with seven spares finished fifth, 1:30.2 back and Belarus, with a penalty and five spares in sixth, 2:09.5 back.
Twenty-seven teams started this second men’s relay of the season this morning under beautifully clear, sunny conditions with the temperature just at freezing and the range wind flags flat, making for perfect conditions both on the range and tracks. Vasilii Tomshin closed his prone targets rapidly to lead the field out of the first prone stage followed by Switzerland and three others all within eight seconds. Norway’s Laegreid after two spares was well back in 16th position. Laegreid however cleaned standing very fast, as did Peppe Femling; they went out virtually together, with Slovenia and Erik Lesser just behind. Tomshin fell 40 seconds back after three spares and a penalty loop.
Over the next 2.5 km, the leaders pulled away with Lesser tagging Kuehn just a step in front of Sweden’s Martin Ponsiluoma at the first exchange. Laegreid set Tarjei off in third but 10.9 seconds back. Ponsiluoma quickly pulled a few seconds in front of this week’s sprint winner, then cleaned prone slowly to retain the lead, with Jakov Fak, Kuehn and Tarjei matching, but a few seconds back. Ponsiluoma continued to build his lead into the standing stage, needed a spare round, struggled to load it but cleaned. This allowed 5-for-5 Tomaso Giacomel to leave just 2 seconds back with Tarjei and Fak after also using spares next but 17 seconds back. Desthieux also closed in five shots, moving France up to fifth position heading to the second exchange.
JT was pleased with his strong leg. “Today I am satisfied with the whole plan. I managed to shoot clean and ski fast and put Vetle in a good position…To have good relays means a lot for the other individual races. Shooting clean today means it is possible in the sprint on Thursday.”
Ponsiluoma flew around his last loop, tagging Stefansson with a 10 second lead over Italy’s Didier Bionaz and Johannes. Jacquelin took over for France in fifth, 25.8 seconds behind Sweden. By the prone stage, JT was in control; five quick shots and he was gone with Bionaz and Slovenia’s Klemen Bauer at 15 and 23 seconds back and Stefansson 33 seconds off the pace. The Norwegian skied powerfully into the standing stage, stretching his lead to over 30 seconds. Five brilliantly fast shots closed JT’s targets, bumping his lead to 49 seconds over Jacquelin, Stefansson, and Alexander Loginov, all with a single spare round.
JT’s lead was unchanged when he came to the last exchange, tagging Christiansen, with Fillon Maillet going out second. Eduard Latypov and Philipp Nawrath left the stadium third and fourth, 1:03 back. One spare round to clean dropped Norway’s lead to 33 seconds as Fillon Maillet cleaned in five fast shots. Latypov and Nawrath also used a spare to retain third and fourth, with the two now separated by less than a second heading to the standing stage. Christiansen hit his first four shots, then used a single spare to clean, while Fillon Maillet went 5-for-5, closing the gap to 14.3 seconds. Nawrath after a spare round left in third, 10 seconds up on Russia.
Christiansen skied the last loop unchallenged, bringing Norway its second relay win of the season, with France again second and Russia again third after Latypov powered past Nawrath on the last big uphill.
Jacquelin was pleased with his shooting and the second place but admitted it would take more to win. “I am happy with my race today. I focused on my shooting…satisfied with my shooting; two spare bullets is not too bad, not the best relay but it is good. It is good to see that we are always able to make the podium; to win we have to make four great relay (legs). It was not the best one but it was a good one and we have to be happy.”
Russia’s leadoff leg Tomshin was thrilled to be on the World Cup relay team for the first time in his career. “I was very happy to be in the Russian team. It is a great team, and I was very happy to be a part of it; super great!.. “It is a bit of altitude here and in standing, my legs…were a bit nervous. Unfortunately, I got one penalty loop.”
Photos: IBU/Evgeny Tumashov, Christian Manzoni