FORT KENT, Maine - In Presque Isle, it was the wind. In Fort Kent, it's the cold.
Weather continued to be a factor on day one of the IBU World Cup as temperatures struggled to get above zero. The mercury was at 22 below zero as athletes began arriving for the men's 10-kilometer sprint race Thursday morning at the 10th Mountain Ski Center and managed to climb to 3 degrees when the skiers took to the course.
Lake Placid's Lowell Bailey was the top American finisher with his 31st-place finish in 26:20.8. Leif Nordgren was 43rd, Jay Hakkinen was 44th and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths was 47th.
Tim Burke of Paul Smiths skis past the timing hut at the 10th Mountain Ski Center in Fort Kent, Maine, during the opening day of competition Thursday at the IBU World Cup.
(Photo — Julia Bayly)
Burke, who has sat out the last two weeks with illness, shot cleanly from the prone position, but three misses standing sent him on three laps around the penalty loop.
"It was really tough for me today," Burke said after his 27:08.3 finish. "I haven't had a chance to train hard for six or eight weeks and I'm hurting really bad."
Burke had been sidelined with a flu and chest infection and is working on regaining his strength and form for the World Championships in three weeks. In the meantime, despite feeling poorly, the former Maine Winter Sports Center team member said he is enjoying being back in northern Maine.
"It's great to be back skiing in front of these crowds," he said. "And I am feeling a little better with each race.
"I missed my first and my last shot today and that's really frustrating. I am not unhappy with the race, but of course I am also not ecstatic about it."
Bailey missed one shot each from the prone and standing positions.
"This is really a difficult course," Bailey said. "It's one of the toughest I've ever seen with the biggest hill. No matter how you do it, it's brutal."
Following his 26:20.8 finish, Bailey said he is looking ahead to Saturday's men's pursuit.
"I'm hoping for the best in the pursuit," he said. "I'm just going to go for it."
Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen won the sprint in 24:51.4 with a single penalty. Second place went to Michal Slesingr from the Czech Republic in 24:58.6 with Tarjel Boe of Norway taking third in 25:007. Both Slesingr and Boe shot clean over two rounds.
World Cup action resumes today with the women's 7.5 km sprint, in which Haley Johnson of Lake Placid is expected to start for Team USA.