Snow Woes Continue as First-Ever Biathlon World Cup Weekend in France Is Canceled, Moved to Austria

Chelsea LittleDecember 5, 2011

Organizers have been forced to cancel the third weekend of IBU World Cup racing, which was scheduled to be held in Le Grand Bornand, France. The races were scheduled for December 15-18; the International Biathlon Union (IBU) announced that the races will be held in Hochfilzen, Austria, which is also hosting the upcoming second weekend of World Cup racing.

It is another blow to a season which has seen international races in all disciplines relocated or simply canceled due to low snow conditions.

“The news is hard to swallow,” Martin Fourcade, a French biathlete who won two of the three opening World Cup races in Sweden this weekend, told the press. “We awaited this World Cup with impatience and ten times the motivation [of the others]. I am sad not to be able to defend my yellow bib on the slopes of Grand Bornand, but we know that the organizing committee did everything they could.”

The World Cup circuit has never visited France, much to the dismay of French biathletes. The teams – and their fans – were looking forward to being able to compete on home snow.

“We made every effort to make this event a success and enable the French biathletes to compete at home in front of their audience,” Sylvie Becaert said in a statment. The 2003 World Champion explained, “It was an opportunity that we biathletes of previous generations were deprived of. It is therefore a great disappointment to call it off.”

While snow is in the forecast, the venue is currently completely bare, and organizers did not think that there would be time to prepare the trails for World-Cup level competition. They are still scheduled to host another World Cup in 2013, so with patience, French biathletes will still see races on their home turf.

For the rest of the biathlon community, it means that there is no new venue on the calendar this year, which would have added variety and interest to a nine-week schedule that is often very similar from season to season.

“I think everyone was excited about the French World Cup,” U.S. Biathlon Association President Max Cobb told FasterSkier. “It’s time [for a World Cup in France]! And a new place would have been fun too. It’s really too bad, and my thoughts are with the Organizing Committee as I know how much work goes into putting on a World Cup.”

He said that the change of plans doesn’t affect the U.S. team, except that they had scheduled flights out of Geneva, Switzerland. Other than that, shifting plans to stay in Hochfilzen after this weekend’s races should not be a problem.

The venue will be refunding tickets sold for the five races that had been on the schedule.

“Our 650 volunteers are particularly in my mind, as they were mobilized to participate voluntarily in this exceptional event,” said organizing committee director Yannick Aujouannet in a statement on the event’s website. “They demonstrated their professionalism in the European Cup finals in March and I am confident that they will do so again for the next World Cup to be held in December 2013. The organizing committee is already turning his attention to this next step. “

Chelsea Little

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