Fillon Maillet’s comeback win and retaking the Yellow Bib were both surprises for the French four-stage specialist. “I feel good. You know it’s a very, very hard race. With two misses in the first shooting, I never expected to come back for the win. I gave my best again and again. The snow was very slow and the shooting was not easy; Hard day for biathlon. I am so happy to win today.”
Clicking the wrong way
He explained what happened when he clicked the wrong way in the first prone , resulting in two penalties that put him 1:27 back. “I do not know exactly. In the first shooting, I clicked because I thought there was less wind but in reality there was more wind. The next shooting, I clicked again to be in the center and did not miss in the rest of the race.”
Laegreid’s fourth place topped sprint winner Alexander Loginov of Russia, with four penalties in fifth place, 18.5 seconds back. Germany’s Roman Rees, with three penalties finished sixth, 44.9 seconds back.
It was back to “Snowberhof” for pursuit day with heavy snow, the temperature just below freezing and strong winds made for tough going on both the tracks and shooting range. Sprint winner Loginov set the pace into the first prone stage, set up slowly but shot fast and clean to get away with a 27-secomd lead over Laegreid and Tarjei. Both Norwegians also shot clean, while Emilien Jacquelin with one penalty trailed 45 seconds back.
The Russian plowed his way through the second loop under at times total whiteout conditions from falling, blowing snow. The second prone stage was more of the same; Loginov was gone before anyone else fired a shot. Tarjei picked up a penalty, allowing the clean-shooting Anton Babikov, Samuelsson, Jacquelin and Erik Lesser to leave the stadium alongside the two Norwegians, 53 seconds back. Laegreid fell farther back with two missed targets.
By the first standing stage, it became obvious that unless Loginov totally collapsed, the real battle was for the other two podium spots. That door cracked open slightly when the Russian missed one shot and his rifle jammed twice. Jacquelin cleaned quickly closing the gap down to 33 seconds, with Lesser, Fillon Maillet and Samuelsson following at 52 seconds back. Tarjei missed twice, falling out of contention.
Despite his comeback, the Yellow Bib, struggling in the tough conditions, along with the rest of the chase pack fell back to near 50 seconds off Loginov’s pace by the final standing stage. Loginov cracked with three penalties in the last standing stage. Fillon Maillet cleaned quickly as did Samuelsson with the French star 8.1 seconds up and Loginov and Laegreid 23 seconds back, while Jacquelin missed three times to fall from the podium chasers.
At the 10.6 km split, the Swede had closed to 5.7 seconds back as Loginov battled with Laegreid and Tarjei for the last podium spot. In the last uphill, Samuelsson was totally spent as Fillon Maillet pulled away for the comeback victory. He came to the finish line, stopped, touched the line with his hand, almost in amazement at his comeback.
Tarjei sprints to third
Tarjei controlled the pace in the last kilometer, got a small lead in the last short uphill near the stadium, but had to sprint the last 50 meters to grab third place from Laegreid. He explained how the last loop went. “It was one of the hardest competitions this season. There was only one place left on the podium after the last shooting; it was three of us fighting for it. It was quite brutal with this snow; snow everywhere. If you wanted to pass, it was only a sprint that could make it past them in this deep snow…It is special race when it is snowing. There is only one line on the highway and everyone is going there…When I caught them, my plan was to save some energy and try to pass on the outside…It was more slow than I could believe, so I had to sprint 50 meters to pass Loginov and Sturla. Once in front, I knew this was the best position…I knew if they had to pass me they would have to do the same.”
Like Fillon Maillet, Samuelsson rebounded from an early deficit today and a bad day in yesterday’s mixed relay. “OI am very happy with my race. I think today I focused only on myself. I wanted to have a good shooting. Yesterday was a very bad performance for me with two penalty loops in the mixed relay. I am happy to show today how good I am.”
Photos; IBU/Christian Manzoni