Completely exhausted, Vinzenz Geiger leaned on his ski poles, but the tortured facial expression gave way to a broad smile just a few seconds later.
At the World Cup in Ramsau, Austria, the combined Olympic champion made it onto the podium for the third time in a row - and, like Nathalie Armbruster before, gave the German Ski Association (DSV) plenty of reason to be happy.
"I'm really happy with the podium," said Geiger.
After a rather mixed start to the season in Ruka, Finland, the 25-year-old is getting better and better.
Only two third places at the World Cup in Lillehammer, now another one in Ramsau: Geiger is back in the mix – and still sees room for improvement: “I would have liked to have won the finish sprint.”
There he had to admit defeat to the Norwegian Jens Luraas Oftebro in the photo finish.
Jarl Magnus Riiber also seemed almost unattainable in Ramsau.
The Norwegian serial winner in the overall World Cup started the track with a lead of 28 seconds.
The almost eight seconds that were left at the end of it in no way corresponded to the dominance of the Norwegian, who fully deserved his 53rd World Cup victory - and that at only 25 years of age.
Crossbowman at rank three
From a German point of view, Manuel Faißt (Baiersbronn) in seventh and record world champion Eric Frenzel (Geyer) in tenth were also impressive.
In addition, Fabian Rießle (Breitnau) managed a respectable success.
After a moderate jump, the nine-time World Cup winner started the cross-country ski run in 26th place - and moved up to 13th place.
Julian Schmid (Oberstdorf), fourth after jumping, finally finished 14th.
In the women's category, the German champion Nathalie Armbruster (Kniebis) had previously achieved the second podium finish ever for the combined athletes.
After her third place at the season opener in Lillehammer, the only 16-year-old woman from the Black Forest finished third again.
"I think that was one of the most strenuous races of my career," said Armbruster, "I really didn't feel good, but of course I'm very happy with third place."
The Norwegian overall World Cup winner Gyda Westvold Hansen secured victory for the tenth time in the twelfth women's race in World Cup history.
Both the women and the men will start again in Ramsau on Saturday.