PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (February 13, 2016) - With single-digit temperatures forecast for Sunday, the women's relay was moved up a day to create a relay doubleheader with the men's event Saturday at the BMW IBU World Cup 8 held at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle. Although Saturday's mercury barely made it out of the single digits, the three-day competition in Maine concluded with the U.S. men's team finishing a season-best fifth, and the women's team battling back for a top-10 showing in their respective relays.
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) started out fast for the U.S. men on the opening leg of the 4x7.5-kilometer relay, quickly moving up to third at the first time check. An extra round in prone bumped him back to sixth and two more additional rounds in standing knocked Bailey all the way down to 12th. He made the first exchange with Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) in 11th place, 39 seconds behind the leaders.
With clean shooting in prone Nordgren jumped up to seventh, and with just one extra round in standing he had the team back in the thick of things in fourth place, 33 seconds back. Although he was passed by several other teams, Nordgren tagged off to Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) for the third leg in seventh place, now 55.8 seconds behind the leaders, but only 16 seconds from the medals.
"Great relay for the team today," said Nordgren. "I think every relay we get just a little better as a team. For me I was pretty happy about my race. I had the advantage of not racing yesterday so I was pretty rested today. Knowing that, I was as aggressive as I could be right from the start. I died a little bit on the last loop, so I may have started a little hard, but it worked out OK. In the shooting range I made up some time and places in both stages. I just shot conservatively and made sure each shot counted, it was too bad to miss the one in standing but that's how biathlon goes.
Needing an extra round in both prone and standing, Burke made up time as he came in for the final exchange with Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.), the team now sitting in fifth place, 37.8 seconds back of first and 24.4 out of a podium spot.
Doherty used one extra round in prone to put the team in fourth, but two extra rounds in standing bumped them back to fifth. The final sprint for the finish began with Doherty 2.4 seconds behind Germany and 13.1 seconds back of third-place Russia. Germany quickly overtook Russia for the third spot and the hard-charging Doherty set his sights on the fading Russian team. A final lunge at the line yielded a photo finish that awarded fourth place to Russia and fifth to the Americans with a time of one hour, 12 minutes and 58.1 seconds, with nine spare rounds. It was the best finish for the U.S. men this season after a pair of sixth-place showings.
"Today's race was a great result for me individually and for the team as a whole," said Doherty. "I felt strong on the skis and the finish was so close. I think we are all feeling optimistic for the upcoming worlds in Norway."
The Norwegian team of Johannes and Tarjei Boe in the third and anchor legs, and Lars Birkeland and Erlend Bjoentegaard on legs one and two, won the relay with seven spares in 1:12:09.8. Second place went to France with two spares, 30.1 seconds back, while Germany finished third, with 11 spares, 42.6 seconds behind Norway. Full men's relay results are available here.
Later in the day, the women's 4x6km relay took place in the fading twilight of Presque Isle. The American team of Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.), Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) and Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) fought hard to finish 10th with one penalty and 12 spares in a time of 1:09:23.4.
Dunklee, celebrating her 30th birthday, was skiing with leader Franziska Preuss of Germany heading into the second shooting stage on the opening leg, but two extra rounds in standing knocked the team back to fourth place as Dunklee made the exchange with Dreissigacker. However, the squad could not pull any closer the rest of the way, falling all the way down to 12th place before Cook brought them back late in the race to claim the 10th spot.
"Despite an average day on the shooting range, we took a big step forward from where we have been all season," Dunklee said. "This team is truly coming alive so world championships will be exciting."
The Czech Republic took the victory with one penalty and 14 spares in 1:07:11. Second place went to Ukraine, with seven spares, 25.2 seconds back. Germany finished third, with a penalty and seven spares, 25.4 seconds behind. Full women's relay results are available here.
The teams now enjoy a bit of rest as they gear up for the IBU World Championships in Oslo, Norway, March 2-13.
Men's 4x7.5km relay results
|1.||Norway (Birkeland, Bjoentegaard, J. Boe, T. Boe)||1:12:09.8/0+7|
|2.||France (S. Fourcade, Fillon Maillet, Desthieux, Beatrix)||1:12:39.9/0+2|
|3.||Germany (Lesser, Birnbacher, Boehm, Doll)||1:12:52.4/0+11|
||USA (Bailey, Nordgren, Burke, Doherty)
Women's 4x6km relay results
|1.||Czech Republic (Puskarcikova, Charvatova, Soukalova, Vitkova)||1:07:11.0/1+14|
|2.||Ukraine (Varvynets, Burdyga, Dzhima, Pidhrushna)||1:07:36.2/0+12|
|3.||Germany (Preuss, Kummer, Goessner, Horchler)||1:07:36.4/1+7|
||USA (Dunklee, Dreissigacker, Egan, Cook)