Yesterday I got my first taste of biathlon mass start action at the World Cup level, leading off for our relay team in Antholz, Italy. It reminded me of how much I thrive on head-to-head racing. Usually our races have an individual start, so during the race I never really know how I am doing compared to the rest of the field and it is just me versus the clock. I like having a person right in front of me to chase; I find that much more motivating than the ticking of the clock.
|Relay start in the sold-out Antholz Biathlon Arena.|
I am 6th from left in the orange and purple. (Photo: Nordic Focus)
My coaches decided to put me first so that I could have that head-to-head experience, both because it will be useful in the future for pursuits and mass starts, and because they thought I would like it. I accepted the challenge knowing that I could probably hang onto the pack on skis, but that I might get separated from the leaders on the shooting range even if I hit all my targets. A fast, clean prone shooting time for me is about 34 seconds from arrival on the mat to departure, plus another 10-12 seconds per spare round if I miss and I have to hand-load. I usually shoot standing a few seconds slower than prone. This week, the fastest standing shooting time was by a Bulgarian woman who came, shot, cleaned and left in 21 seconds. My time, with one spare round, was 56. That is a lot of time to make up on skis!
|On course in the relay. (Photo: Nordic Focus)|
I did pass six teams on my last lap, including the third-ranked team Germany! (See her right arm, above in the background!) I tagged off in 12th place, less than one minute behind 1st. Our team struggled on the range and moved back to eventually finish 17th.