Alexis Boeuf didn’t have to sprint to win Sunday’s World Cup biathlon pursuit in Presque Isle, since his margin of victory was a decisive 10 seconds. But if the event had come down to a last-minute drag race, it’s unlikely that Boeuf would have had much trouble dispatching his competition.
The 24-year-old Frenchman is a talented sprinter. How talented? Well, in December, he raced in a cross-country World Cup sprint in Davos, Switzerland, and qualified for the heats, ultimately finishing 20th on the day. And, he told FasterSkier after his win on Sunday, he will travel to Oslo in late February to contest the sprint at the World Ski Championships.
“I like the sprint,” Boeuf said. “For me, it is possible to do both…I don’t want to make a difference between biathlon and cross-country skiing.”
The World Championships for the two sports are offset on the calendar this year, so Boeuf will be able to race in Oslo on February 24th before hopping a plane for Khanty-Mansiysk in Siberia—the site of this season’s biathlon worlds.
According to Siegfried Mazet, one of the French team’s coaches, biathlon is still the first priority for Boeuf. But Mazet also said that since he was a junior, Boeuf has successfully dabbled in cross-country racing as well—especially in sprints.
Elite biathletes have competed in cross-country skiing in the past, most notably in the case of Norwegian Lars Berger, who won gold in the 15 k skate at the 2007 World Championships in Japan, then helped his country’s relay team to silver in the 2010 Olympics.
More recently, Emil Hegle Svendsen, another biathlete, was named last week to the Norwegian team for Oslo, where he will likely race one of the skate legs in the country’s men’s relay.
Svendsen and Berger both raced in longer events, not sprints, and few, if any biathletes have contested that discipline in cross-country. But according to Mazet, Boeuf is cut out for short-distance racing.
“He is able to accelerate very, very, very fast,” Mazet said. “He is able to catch many seconds in the short time.”
Mazet said that in the future, Martin Fourcade, an even bigger French name than Boeuf, could one day take a shot at some cross-country racing—perhaps with a spot on France’s relay team.
In the mean time, though, Boeuf will have to suffice as his country’s lone representative in Oslo. After his modest success in Davos, there’s no reason to discount his potential for the World Ski Championships—especially with his first career win on Sunday showing that his fitness is at an all-time high.
“I think the biathlon training is really good for me in sprints,” Boeuf said.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.