PRESQUE ISLE — The way the men’s pursuit race was shaping up Sunday morning, it appeared Alexis Boeuf had no chance for the first World Cup Biathlon victory of his career.
The young Frenchman was nearly a minute behind Germany’s Arnd Peiffer 6.3 kilometers into the 12.5K event, but Boeuf’s clean shooting, coupled with Peiffer’s misfortune on the range, enabled Boeuf to climb into the lead and eventually win in 36 minutes, 2.4 seconds at the Nordic Heritage Center.
Ivan Tcherezov of Russia took second in 36:12.7, followed by Carl Johan Bergman of Sweden (36:16.7), Peiffer (36:26.8) and Maxim Tchoudov of Russia (36:30.6).
Tarjei Boe of Norway, the world’s top-ranked male biathlete, maintained his perch atop the Cup standings with a sixth-place run.
Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid, N.Y., was the top American finisher in 16th place, covering the course in 38:26.5.
Biathlon is a sport that combines rifle shooting with cross-country skiing. In the pursuit, the biathletes’ starts were separated by their time differences from Friday’s sprint.
The men’s competitors skied a 2.5K loop five times and the women a 2K loop five times, with sprint winners Helena Ekholm of Sweden and Peiffer going off first.
The Heritage Center’s trails received some fresh snow, with approximately 9 1/2 inches of snow falling on the Star City Saturday night into Sunday morning.
A strong wind picked up for the women’s 10K competition in the afternoon, making for some difficult shooting.
Norway’s Tora Berger weathered the conditions, winning in 35:12.1, with Marie Dorin of France 30 seconds back.
Rounding out the top five were Darya Domracheva of Belarus (36:23.3), Magdalena Neuner of Germany (35:57.9) and Andrea Henkel of Germany (37:28.2).
Sara Studebaker of Boise, Idaho, who was 14th in Friday’s sprint race, went on to finish 28th in 38:57.5.
The wind wreaked havoc with Studebaker’s shooting, as she had to ski a total of six penalty laps.
“It’s really tough out there. The skiing was really hard because there was so much snow from last night. It just wasn’t packing down,” Studebaker said. “The shooting, with the wind, was all over the place. It was tough.”
All that aside, Studebaker represented the stars and stripes well in Presque Isle. And she’s hoping to take that momentum to Fort Kent for next weekend’s World Cup event.
“It was a real fantastic weekend for me. I mean today wasn’t the race that I wanted to have, but I’m still 28th and that’s pretty good,” she said.
Dorin was actually 21 seconds up on Berger after the third shooting stage, but Berger hit four of five targets while Dorin missed two on the final round, which enabled the Norwegian to take command.
“The shooting was really difficult today, there was a lot of missing today,” Berger said.
The 52 female competitors combined to ski a whopping 311 penalty laps.
Berger agreed with Studebaker’s assessment of the fresh snow on the trails.
“It was much harder to go skiing today. This was a really hard race,” she said.
Sweden’s Ekholm struggled with her shooting from the outset, skiing seven penalty laps, but her 10th-place finish earned 31 Cup points. She will hang on to her No. 1 world ranking heading into Fort Kent.
Ekholm has accumulated 637 points and second-ranked Kaisa Makarainen of Finland has 630.
In the men’s competition, Peiffer was in control of the competition from the beginning, maintaining a 49-second lead at the halfway mark thanks to perfect shooting in the prone position.
But Peiffer struggled from the standing position, skiing four penalty laps — including three on his fourth stand — which allowed Boeuf to gain some ground and eventually catch him.
Not bad for a guy who started 1:14 after Peiffer, who won Friday’s sprint competition to earn the right to start first in the pursuit race.
“I saw his targets and I saw the three misses,” said Boeuf.
Boeuf only missed two targets on his entire run.
“I’m really happy about it,” Boeuf said of his first Cup triumph.
Bailey closed out his Presque Isle competition with a strong run, moving up five places after starting 21st.
The World Cup will head up Route 1 to Fort Kent next weekend, with action getting under way Thursday with the men’s sprint at 11:30 a.m.