PRESQUE ISLE — One-by-one the world’s top biathletes completed World Cup No. 7 this afternoon, heaving in exhaustion as they crossed the finish line at the Nordic Heritage Center.

Wind flags flapped wildly during the women’s race causing a remarkable 311 penalty loops.
And by day’s end, 109 total skiers – 57 men, 52 women – trudged through 9.5 new inches of fluffy white snow that fell overnight, adding to the tough conditions in an already exacting race.
Many collapsed to the ground at the finish.

“It was really challenging. Really, really challenging,” said Lowell Bailey who was the top American finisher of the day, 16th in the men’s pursuit. “You kind of have to throw everything out the window and try and glide and make the best of it. . . It’s been a great series here. Congratulations to Presque Isle.”

The World Cup moves onto Fort Kent later this week, but not before athletes attacked Presque Isle one last time.

Norway’s Tora Berger managed to gut her way through the 10 kilometer women’s pursuit with just four penalty loops. She won in 35 minutes, 12.1 seconds. France’s Marie Dorin finished second, 30.7 seconds back, and Belarus’ Darya Domracheva finished third 1:11.2 back.

“It was harder and a little bit more difficult to go skiing today. It was a really hard race,” said Berger.
France’s Alexis Boeuf won his first ever World Cup finishing the men’s pursuit in 36 minutes, 2.4 seconds. Athletes earned their start based on their finish in Friday’s sprint.

“For me today it was perfect snow because I am really light,” said Boeuf. “I am on the snow and can do what I want. Our team gave us really good skis, so it was great.”

Russia’s Ivan Tcherezof took second 10.3 seconds back, and Sweden’s Carl Johan Bergman finished third, 14.3 seconds back from Boeuf.

Not a single athlete shot clean in all four shooting stages all day long thanks to gusty winds.
Lowell Bailey had the best race among the American’s, finishing 16th. He started 25th.
Bailey had three penalties in the first of two standing stages, but shot clean in the last stage, propelling him into the top 20.

“I know myself well enough to know that I get into trouble if I spend too much time on the shooting range, but that’s exactly what I did in that first standing,” said Bailey. “I hesitated and gave it too much time. Sometimes you just have to go for it and that’s what I did in the last shooting stage. I was quite happy that it worked out perfectly there.”

Waking up to almost a foot of snow though?

“Soft, trudging snow is one of the toughest conditions you can have,” said American Jay Hakkinen, who finished 27th, 3:10 back from the winner.

“They did a really good job with the track,” he said. “And because it’s a pursuit it’s really fair, everyone has to trudge through it. But it made it a really brutally hard race.”

In all, the athletes reported a favorable World Cup at Presque Isle.

“I like this place. It’s like Sweden,” said Johan Bergman, the third-place finisher. “And it’s really fun to have the penalty loop around this building. That’s a new experience. It’s difficult. You have no idea which race you’re on. You never know when you’re going out ‘are they before me, after me?’ It’s fun.”
American Haley Johnson, who finished 38th, said she is looking forward to bettering her performance next week.

“The conditions overall were pretty challenging. You had to ski light and work against your instinct,” she said. “Personally this wasn’t the best week, but there’s always another week in biathlon.”

In all the American women set the bar higher this weekend following Sara Studebaker’s personal best 14th place finish in Friday’s sprint that was also a team best. She hung on to finish 28th in the pursuit after having to do six penalty loops.

“This was a fantastic weekend for me,” said Studebaker. “14 is a bar that’s been set. And I think it shows the women are moving up.”

Agreed said women’s coach Jonne Kahkonen.

“I can’t even start to explain how important this was,” said Kahkonen. “Now we can see the whole team is moving up. The top result defines the level.”