The rise and rise of Sturla Holm Laegreid seems never ending. Just two days after he became the first male athlete to win two races during the 2020-21 season he added another victory and has won three races so far this season.
His first two wins was slightly surprising yet far from shocking for our biathlon model, which gave Laegreid some five-ish percent chance of winning before the start of both his previous world cup victories. Todays’s pursuit was a very different story as he started with a lead on everyone else. Sturla Holm Lagreid was the main favourite to win, and our model estimated that he had some 41 percent chance of winning.
Sturla was part of the leading group the entire race. As expected Johannes Dale, who started with bib 2, made up the eight seconds he started behind on the course before entering the range for the first shooting. Both Laegreid and Dale hit five of five, Laegreid slightly faster but again Dale caught up on the tracks. The same pattern repeated itself for the last prone shooting.
It looked like Johannes Dale was pushing hard coming in to shoot standing for the first time. He had built a small gap of some 15 meters on Sturla and increased the gap to the nearest pursuers by more than five seconds from the last split. This can have been a tactical mistake by Dale, who missed three of five and dropped to fifth.
Sturla Holm Laegreid missed one, his only miss of the day and still had a lead of almost half a minute upon leaving the range.
He maintained this lead on the penultimate lap and as he hit five of five on the fourth and final shooting he looked firmly in control of the race and held on for the victory.
Behind the winner, five athletes came in together for the last standing shooting. Martin Ponsiluoma, Emilien Jacquelin, Johannes Thingnes Boe and Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen cleared all five targets and engaged in a fight for the final two spots on the podium. Johannes Dale missed one and as a consequence was left to fight for sixth against Tarjei Boe, a fight he duly won.
Ponsiluoma led the group fighting for second place and looked to push the pace the first half of the last lap, but could not drop anyone. Thingnes Boe took the lead as they went by the first check point, but early on the last long uphill of the day a fierce acceleration by Jacquelin built a small gap to the others.
The stunning attack by Emilien quickly ate into the lead of Laegreid. At the bottom of the climb the lead had been around 27 seconds. Only a minute or so later the lead was down to approximately 12 seconds. However, as there was not much left to ski and the remaining parts of the course was mostly downhill, Laegreid’s victory was still assured.
Thingnes Boe chased with everything he had and tried his hardest to get back to Jacquelin, but the Frenchman had shown that he likely is in possession of the best turn of pace of all the biathletes and stayed ahead to finish in second place.
Jacquelin did a very good race, hitting 20 of 20 with the tenth best total range time and seventh fastest course time of the day. His second place finish was well deserved.
Johannes Thingnes Boe’s three misses was too costly. He had the third fastest course time of the day and had to settle for third place due to Jacquelin’s very impressive move on the last climb.
Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen started in fourth and finished in fourth. That he was unable to move up even as he hit 20 of 20 shows how hard the competition among the men truly is.
Martin Ponsiluoma was very impressive. He hit 20 of 20 and produced the fastest total range time of the day. He skied far from slow, producing the 17th fastest course time of the day. However this was a fair bit slower than what he did in some of the early races of the season. If he had been able to duplicate his skiing performances from Kontiolahti he would have been a likely winner.
Johannes Dale’s sixth was a bit disappointing considering the position he was in after the second shooting. We think it could have ended better for him if he had not pushed so hard on the course towards the end of the third lap.
Tarjei Boe moved up from 14th to seventh. He hit 19 of 20, missing once on his first standing shooting and skied fast with the fifth fastest course time of the day.
Quentin Fillon Millet missed one shot on each of the prone shooting sessions. Even if he had the tenth fastest course time of the day and the second fastest total range time, he dropped one place from to eighth due to the strong performances of the other athletes.
Simon Eder gave the home crowd something to cheer about. Hitting 20 of 20 and moving up 16 places from 25th to ninth.
Jakob Fak moved up one place from 11th to 10th hitting 19 of 20.
Jesper Nelin somewhat surprisingly made the fastest course time of the day. However four misses in total was too many to move up a lot of places. Even so he finished 15th after having starting 19th.
Benedikt Doll was the best placed German in 13th.
Matvey Eliseev did best of the Russians ending in 18th. He hit 20 of 20 and moved up 20 placed on the day.
Didier Bionaz was the best Italian in 19th, he did a very good race climbing 21 places with bib 40.