If the 20K in Lahti last week with its 2K uphill climb was hard, today’s 20K was even harder; not because the hills here are as demanding, but that the snow (or slush) was 6-8 inches deep from start to finish. With two nights of above freezing temperatures, brilliant sunshine today, and temperatures reaching plus 8 Celsius at race time, the tracks literally turned into mush by the time the competition started. Bailey, dripping with perspiration at the finish, commented on the conditions. “I felt pretty good especially the first two loops. Then my skis (and everyone else’s) started to slow down. From that point, it took a lot of concentration, because the snow was getting really deep.”
Regarding his performance, Bailey who has struggled at times recently both on the tracks and shooting range, added, “I decided this week to just concentrate on my performance and not worry about where I finish in the final results. At the same time today, with the conditions as they were, my plan was to stay relaxed, but focused on the shooting range. I hit the first four shots in the final standing stage, knowing that if I hit the final one, I would probably be in the top 30. Unfortunately, I missed it, but I am very pleased with my performance. I am feeling much better both physically and mentally than a few days ago and that made a big difference today.”
Hakkinen’s strategy was similar to Bailey. “Under the conditions, there was no reason to struggle, so I decided to just race under control and shoot well. The prone stages came together well (both clean). In the final standing stage, everything felt normal when I set up, but then I suddenly felt all of the fatigue and I missed two.” Those two penalties dropped the Alaskan from the low twenties to 40th at the finish.
Unlike Hakkinen and Bailey, Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) had a sub-par day on the shooting range. Burke skied well throughout the whole 20K, but had six costly penalties, leaving him in 56th place, 6:31.5 back. Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) also had six penalties, finishing 80th, 8:59.5 back. Hakkinen, Bailey, and Burke all qualified for Saturday’s 12.5K pursuit competition. Between now and then conditions should improve as a cold front brings some snow and temperatures below freezing.
While the men had a 20K Individual competition today (making up for a missed 20K back in December), the Women raced a 7.5K Sprint in the morning. Andrea Henkel won for the sixth time this season, shooting clean while posting a 21:47.9 victory. Russian Ekaterina Iourieva, also shooting clean was second, 24.8 seconds back, while the new German star Magdalena Neuner, with one penalty was 31.5 seconds back. US Biathletes Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO) and Denise Teela (Anchorage, AK) were 77th and 79th respectively, 4;22.7 and 4;28.5 back. The highlight for the two women was Teela’s 10-for-10 shooting, the first of her career in a World Cup competition. Barnes had four penalties today.
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