RUHPOLDING, Germany (January 15, 2015) - The U.S team of Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.), Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.), Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) and Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) put together an outstanding effort Thursday to finish 10th in the men's 4x7.5-kilometer relay at the IBU World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany.
Beginning in the 25th and last position in the starting grid, Bailey quickly moved up in the field on the opening lap.
"I tried to stay conservative in the first lap and conserve energy as I was starting in the last row," said Bailey. "It's difficult to move up much when you start that far back, so I knew I would need to focus on shooting."
After hitting all five targets in the prone position he was in 11th place, just 6.8 seconds out of first. Another clean round by Bailey in standing moved the U.S. up to fifth place exiting the range.
"After prone, I was in the lead group but it was a large group. For standing, I just made sure that I focused on my own shooting and didn't get distracted by what other competitors were doing around me. In Ruhpolding, the shooting times tend to be fast because the range approach is fairly easy. I wanted to make sure I didn't rush my shooting just because everyone around was shooting fast. It wasn't the fastest shooting of the day, but it was clean, and it allowed me to get out of the range in fifth or sixth with only about a 10-second gap to the lead."
Bailey seemed to get stronger as the race wore on as he battled back and forth with the leaders, including the legendary Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, eventually taking the overall lead at the first exchange.
"I felt good on the last lap and waited until the second-to-last hill to make my move. After I took the lead, I knew that I would have to fight up the last hill to maintain my position, but if I could stay in front over the climb, I would most likely be able to hold the lead to the tag. It was a good feeling to be able to hand Sean a top spot to start off in."
Bailey tagged off to the 19-year-old Doherty, who was smiling broadly as Baily approached.
"When Lowell was coming in, all I could do was smile, really," Doherty said. "In front of one of the biggest and most exciting crowds of the year, to have the lead, these are the moments that you train all summer for -- the position that I want to be in, even if it was a bit surprising."
But Doherty did not let himself get caught up in the excitement of racing with the lead pack in front of a boisterous pro-German crowd. Racing within himself, he cleaned prone in eight shots and left the range just 26.9 seconds back of the leaders in eighth place.
"For the first prone, it was a little rough. But the key is to forget that and reset for the next stage. I had super skis and just focused on keeping a good pace on the course, then to come into the range and let the training take over and skip the spares this time."
After hitting all five targets in standing, Doherty had the U.S. tied for fifth place with Czech Republic and just eight seconds behind Russia. He maintained a sixth-place position over the last hill before tagging off to Nordgren, just six seconds down to Czech Republic.
Nordgren followed Austria stride for stride into the range in seventh place and left in ninth after cleaning in eight shots, just 1:04 back of the overall leaders. He then cleaned prone in five shots and tagged off to Burke tied for eighth place with Slovakia.
Burke cleaned prone and took eight shots in standing, leaving the range in 11th place. After moving up briefly into eighth, Burke crossed the line in 10th place with a time of 1:12:37.6.
The Norwegian team of Bjoerndalen, Erlend Bjoentegaard, Johannes Thingnes Boe and Emil Hegle Svendsen outsprinted the teams from Germany and Russia to take the victory with a winning time of 1:09:42.3 with no penalties and using eight spares. Full results of the men's relay are available here.
"Considering that Leif and Tim have just some off of being sick last week, and this is Sean's first World Cup of the season, we are happy with the top 10 and looking forward to the chance to race a relay when we are all completely healthy," Bailey said. "At any rate, 10th is a whole lot better than the bib number we started with today."
"I think this was a very solid result for the team, especially considering that two of us are just getting over sickness," added Burke. "Lowell and Sean did a great job and then Leif and I just had to try and tough it out. It was a hard transition for me going from the couch to the race course. I felt about how I expected to feel after being sick, but I hope to feel better with each race now."
The World Cup in Ruhpolding continues on Friday with the women's 7.5km sprint. Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.) and Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) will be competing for the U.S. Live streaming coverage can be seen here starting at 9:00 a.m. EST.
Men's 4x7.5km relay
|1.||Norway (Bjoerndalen, Bjoentegaard, Boe, Svendsen)||1:09:42.3/0+8|
|2.||Germany (Lesser, Birnbacher, Peiffer, Schempp)||1:09:46.9/0+4|
|3.||Russia (Garanichev, Lapshin, Volkov, Shipulin||1:09:50.7/0+8|
|10.||USA (Bailey, Doherty, Nordgren, Burke)||1:12:37.6/0+9|