The International Biathlon Union (IBU) came off a two-week break for the holidays today in Oberhof, Germany. The women raced the 7.5-kilometer sprint under mostly calm conditions on a course that had received fresh snow. The fir trees lining Oberhof’s ski tracks were loaded down from recent storms that have passed through the region.
The relatively calm and non-blizzard conditions were noted by US Biathlon’s Susan Dunklee in an email to FasterSkier.
“The sun peeked out in Oberhof this afternoon, truly a seldom occurrence,” Dunklee wrote.
“The last couple days we trained in a blizzard but today the wind was relatively calm. The tracks were glazed but not too deep.”
In a clean shooting blitz, Italy’s Lisa Vitozzi earned her first career IBU World Cup win in a time of 22:34.6 minutes. With the shooting range flags sitting noticeably stagnant, clean shooting was also the pattern for the remaining two podium spots.
Anais Chevalier from France finished in second place, 5.3 seconds back, for her best result of the season. Hanna Öberg of Sweden was third after crossing the finish line 15 seconds back.
Beyond her clean shooting in her two shooting bouts, Vitozzi had the second fastest and third fastest course times for her first and second ski loops respectively. Vitozzi’s third lap was the 11th fastest.
The U.S. women’s biathlon team posted two top-15 performances on the day. Thirty-two-year-old Susan Dunklee placed a season-best 10th place while the thirty-one-year-old Egan placed 13th.
“I can’t remember a time when the US has put two women in the top 13 of a World Cup,” Dunklee wrote. “It has been a lot of fun to watch Clare come alive this season after years of hard work and it’s exciting to join her with a great result today.”
Prior to the holiday break, Dunklee’s best individual result was in Pokljuka, Slovenia’s individual race where she placed 11th after amassing a single penalty.
On Thursday, Dunklee was 40.8 seconds off the winning time while skiing one penalty loop after missing a single target in her prone stage. Dunklee’s performance displayed consistent ski speed and efficiency on the range. Her first ski lap was the 13th fastest, her second ski loop ranked 29th and her third ski course time improved to the 17th fastest.
Dunklee’s range times (defined by the time at the shooting range) were ranked ninth and 20th for her first and second shooting bouts in Thursday’s sprint.
“I spent the holiday break in Austria with the Canadian team and got in a high quality training block. It sure is nice to not have to fight jetlag right now,” Dunklee added. My shooting speed benefited a lot from working alongside the Canadians. My ski speed sometimes takes weeks to sharpen during the season and I think it is finally getting there.”
Today was one of my best results and yet it felt normal- and that’s a great feeling,” wrote Egan.
Her return to competition on Thursday was seamless despite the break. Her skiing and shooting showed no rust.
“My race today was definitely a ‘blowing-out-the-cobwebs’ experience,” Egan emailed. “But I still managed a top-20 ski time, only +:35. It’s very motivating to know that even on a day when I don’t feel great skiing, I am competing with the best.”
On Thursday, Egan’s 13th place was a result of her finishing 49.0 seconds back in a field of 100 starters.
“Today was a great day for both Susan and me- the first time that US Biathlon has had two women in the top-15 (AS FAR AS WE KNOW!),” Egan continued. “We are both competing at a high level right now, so it will be exciting to work together in Saturday’s pursuit to move up. The top 20 starters (today’s top 20 finishers) are all within 1 minute, so in a 10k race with 4 shooting stages, anything is possible.”
For Canada, Emma Lunder placed 46th (+1:49.2, 1+1), Rosanna Crawford 56th (+2:06.3, 1+1), Megan Bankes 87th (+3:07.9, 1+1), and Sarah Beaudry 89th (+3:21.2, 2+1).
Lunder and Crawford both qualified for the pursuit.
The women race again in Oberhof on Saturday in a 10 k pursuit.