U.S. Men 12th in Ruhpolding Relay

Photos from the men's relay on Jan. 11, 2017 at the BMW IBU World Cup 5 in Ruhpolding, Germany

By Bill Kellick | Jan. 11, 2017, 11:34 a.m. (ET)

RUHPOLDING, Germany (January 11, 2017) - The fifth BMW IBU World Cup of the season got underway Wednesday in Ruhpolding with the men's 4x7.5-kilometer relay highlighting the first day of the five-day event. The U.S. team of Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.), Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) and Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.) placed 12th in the 25-team field, finishing two minutes, 4.6 seconds back with one penalty and seven spares.

Bailey started off the relay for the American squad and moved up from the 24th start position to 15th entering the first prone stage. After going clean in prone, Bailey exited the range in fifth place, just 6.2 seconds from the lead. 

"I was happy with my start today," Bailey said. "It was tough to start as bib 24, but we have to start somewhere and work our way back as a team, after missing the first relay in Pokljuka."

Another clean round in standing moved him up to fourth, now just four seconds from first. When Bailey made the first exchange with Burke, the U.S. was still in fourth place, 13.7 seconds out of first.

"I spent a lot of time on shooting over the break and I'm happy that I was able to execute in the range today what I worked on at home," added Bailey. "We had great skis and I was able to make up a lot of time in the fast sections today because of that."

Burke kept the string of clean shooting going in his prone stage, leaving the range in seventh place, 19.3 seconds off the lead. However, it came a bit undone in standing as he needed three spares and suffered one penalty which knocked the team down to 13th, now over a minute off the leaders.

Nordgren, competing for the first time since November after injuring his toe, raced the third leg for the American team and went clean from the clip in prone and needed two extra rounds in standing, moving the U.S. up one spot ahead of Canada to 12th as he made the final exchange with Doherty.

"I was happy with my race today," said Nordgren. "I've only been back into training for a little over two weeks now, it was about three weeks of recovery after surgery on my toe. Three weeks isn't a ton of time to lose, but its enough at this level where everything counts. This was essentially my first race of the season, so I had absolutely no idea how it would go, especially with only two weeks of training. But I was happy with the skiing, it's a good place to start the season. Hopefully, with more races and more activity over the next few weeks, I can improve. The shooting was okay, not good but not bad either. I would have liked to miss one less in standing. I had fast spare rounds though so I kept the damage to a minimum."

Nordgren was also complimentary of the work the ski technicians put in before the race to adjust to the course conditions.

"Ruhpolding has gotten about a foot and half of snow earlier in the week and temps have been pretty cold so the tracks were in excellent shape. We had good skis today that were quite competitive with the field."

The final leg was a neck-and-neck battle between the North American teams. Doherty needed one extra shot in both prone and standing and was just nipped by 0.2 seconds at the finish line by the Canadian team for 11th place.

"I am very happy with the race today," Doherty said. "It is a big step in the right direction. I am excited to be getting into race shape and looking forward to the sprint." 

The Norwegian quartet of Ole Einar Bjoerdalen, Vetle Sjastad Christiansen, Henrik L'Abee-lund and Emil Hegle Svendsen won the men's relay with five spare rounds in 1:13:40 for their third consecutive relay victory in Ruhpolding. Russia finished second with two spares, 5.1 seconds back, while the home team, Germany, grabbed the final spot on the podium, with one penalty and nine spares, 17.9 seconds behind. Full men's relay results are available here.

"As for the team we know we can do better, we showed it plenty of times last season," stated Nordgren. "With Sean and I just now getting the first races under our belts, I think we can expect more from the next relay."

Competition at the BMW IBU World Cup 5 continues Thursday with the women's 4x6k relay featuring the American team of Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), Joanne Reid (Boulder, Colo.) and Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.). Live streaming coverage begins at 8:30 a.m. EST on eurovisionsports.tv/ibu/.

Men's 4x7.5km relay results

1. Norway  1:13:40/0+5
2. Russia +5.1/0+2
3. Germany  +23.5/1+9
USA (Bailey, Burke, Nordgren, Doherty)