IBU World Cup (Ruhpolding, Germany): Men’s 20 k individual
For France’s Martin Fourcade, the difference between a miss on the last shooting stage of the men’s 20-kilometer individual International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup on Wednesday versus perfect shooting wouldn’t have ultimately changed his result in Ruhpolding.
Despite the one-minute penalty, which was tagged onto his total time after his lone miss of the day, Fourcade still won by a minute. The Czech Republic’s Ondřej Moravec, who started 2 1/2 minutes ahead of him in bib 18 (while Fourcade wore bib 23), had successfully cleaned every stage, shooting 20-for-20, and initially crossed the finish line first — about a minute and 23 seconds ahead of former race leader Simon Eder of Austria.
But Moravec’s moment in first was fleeting as Fourcade burst into the stadium, not yet letting off the gas, seconds after Moravec finished. Fourcade took the win in 44:27.9, 1:01 ahead of Moravec in second. To indicate how fast Fourcade’s last loop was, it’s worth noting that he was 30 seconds ahead of Moravec with 4 k to go. On that final 4 k loop, he doubled his time ahead of second place.
Fourcade’s win came four days after his last race in Oberhof, Germany, the 12.5 k pursuit, which he also won.
“We are in a biathlon routine now,” he said, according to an IBU press release. “It was hard to find strong motivation with not much recovery or training this week. … Today I wanted to beat my record of podiums in a row. Today was my 14th [individual podium, including last season] in a row and I am really proud of this. I am very happy with my competition as well. Ruhpolding is place that I really love and I am happy that I continued my success here.”
Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø achieved his eighth-straight podium in third, 1:06.3 behind Fourcade with a single miss on the last stage as well (0+0+0+1).
“I heard the speaker, so I knew Martin had missed,” recalled Bø, who started behind Fourcade in bib 29. “I knew if I could shoot clean, there was a small chance I could beat him. I tried and missed. That was my tactic: to go for the win, not save the podium.”
He left the range for the last time 48.3 seconds back from Fourcade in first.
Germany’s Roman Rees shot clean and placed fourth (+1:19.1) for his first-career World Cup top 10, and the Czech Republic had two in the top five with Michal Krcmar in fifth (+1:36.6) for his best result of this season.
For Moravec, second place marked his season best as well, after finishing outside the top 10 in previous races this season.
“This podium is really important for me,” he told the IBU. “My first trimester was really bad; my shape was not good especially for the shooting. I also missed a lot of the summer training so did not have the best preparation … I am very please at how I was able to focus and have success in this race.”
Austria’s Dominik Landertinger followed in sixth (+2:21.9) with one penalty and Eder ended up seventh (+2:23.8) with one miss as well.
While the one-minute penalty per miss did not faze Fourcade, it led several North Americans to drop out of top-20 contention, particularly Tim Burke (US Biathlon), who had been in 16th after cleaning the third shooting stage. Burke had cleaned his first stage then missed one on the first standing, but was back in the top 20 with a clean third stage. On the final standing, he missed his first two shots, causing him to look up for a moment to refocus. He cleaned the last three, but still ended up with two additional minutes of penalties that put him 36th at the finish, 4:35.0 out of first (0+1+0+2).
Sean Doherty led the U.S. men in 31st after missing two targets between the first prone and first standing stages. Ranked 76th after the second stage, he recovered to 53rd after a clean third stage and then 32nd after hitting all five targets on his last stage (1+1+0+0). With two penalties, Doherty finished the race 4:13.6 back in 31st.
“I am happy with the race today,” Doherty said, according to a US Biathlon press release. “I left some room for improvement on the range. It was a big step in the right direction from last week. We had very fast conditions on the course today and our waxing staff did a great job as usual.”
All three U.S. starters finished in the top 40, with Lowell Bailey in 37th (+4:36.4) with three misses (0+2+0+1).
Biathlon Canada was led by Christian Gow in 34th (+4:30.7), for his career-best in a 20 k individual race. After starting in bib 2, he cleaned his first and third stages to put himself in 32nd with one stage to go, within 28 seconds of the top 20. But a miss on his last standing put Gow in 39th leaving the range for the last time, and he ended up 34th at the finish (0+1+0+1).
“My shooting was just OK today,” Gow wrote in an email. “I would have liked to hit one more for sure and then I would have been completely satisfied with the race. I felt more nervous than normal in the range, and my two misses were a direct result of being a bit hesitant on the shooting mat.
“I am pretty happy with today overall,” he added. “I think this is the best skiing I’ve had in an Individual race and my best placing as well. I do wish I could have one or two shots back, but overall I am happy.”
Also for Canada, his older brother Scott Gow finished 55th (+5:13.2) with three penalties (0+1+1+1), Brendan Green placed 78th (+6:53.7) with four misses (1+0+2+1), and Macx Davies was 91st (+8:02.4) with five penalties (1+1+3+0), out of 107 finishers.
The Gow brothers and Green raced Sunday in the men’s 4 x 7.5 k in Oberhof, where they placed 10th.
“Honestly, I have been feeling pretty tired after the 3 days of racing in a row last weekend,” Christian wrote. “Our travel wasn’t too bad, but it still didn’t feel like much of a rest day.”
The Ruhpolding World Cup continues Thursday with the women’s 15 k individual (starting at 8:30 a.m. EST on the Olympic Channel). Another men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay will follow on Friday, then the women’s 4 x 6 k relay on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.
NorAm Trials (Mont Sainte-Anne, Québec): Classic interval starts
The NorAm trials at Mont Sainte-Anne (MSA), Québec, concluded Wednesday with the 10- and 15-kilometer classic interval starts. On the line were NorAm points, U23 and World Championships invitations, and for the women, what may well be the last Olympic spot on the Canadian team.
The action started with the men’s 15 k classic, which Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) won in 39.07.8 minutes to punch his ticket to U23 World Championships later this month in Goms, Switzerland. He won the race ahead of Scott Hill of Barrie Cross Country (BXC) in second, who skied a fast final lap to come within 6.9 seconds of first.
Canadian Para-Nordic teammates Graham Nishikawa and Brian McKeever finished third (+30.0) and fourth (+37.4), respectively, with Nishikawa as McKeever’s guide in Paralympic events having the edge in the interval-start race the two skied on their own (Nishikawa started 64th and McKeever 55th).
According to Nishikawa, the two have been entering NorAm events that fit into their preparation for the PyeongChang Paralympics. Nishikawa wrote a quick email on his way to the airport on Wednesday.
“Happy with my week overall in MSA. Shape is good. Skis were good. Will keep improving into Korea for Paralympics,” he wrote after his second distance podium of the week.
In the women’s 10 k classic, Cendrine Browne (Canadian National U25 Team/CNEPH) continued her strong showing at trials with her second victory and fourth top-four result, taking the win in 29:47.0.
Katherine Stewart-Jones, of the U25 Team and National Team Development Centre (NTDC) Thunder Bay, and Anne-Marie Comeau (Université Laval) were virtually tied for second after the first lap, but Stewart-Jones held the speed to take second, 39.2 seconds behind Browne and 24.3 seconds ahead of Comeau in third.
About 16 seconds later, Maya MacIsaac-Jones, of the U25 Team and Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR), finished fourth (+1:21.0) ahead of Dahria Beatty, of the Canadian World Cup Team and Alberta World Cup Academy, in fifth (+1:26.6).
The selection criteria are complex, but a quick calculation suggests that Comeau, who placed second to Browne in Monday’s skiathlon, gets the provisional women’s distance spot for the PyeongChang Olympics (since Browne already established herself as the sprint leader), and Stewart-Jones, who was fifth in the skiathlon, gets the U23 Worlds berth. Stay tuned for updates and official selections.
CNEPH’s Antoine Cyr took his third win of the week in the junior men’s 10 k, finishing in 25:57.3, well ahead of local Félix Longpré (MSA) in second (+48.2) and Étienne Hébert (AWCA) in third (+55.6).
In the junior women’s 5 k, Hannah Mehain (Sovereign Lake Nordic/National Junior Team) took the win in 15:22.7, just 2.7 seconds ahead of skiathlon winner Natalie Hynes (Whitehorse Ski Club/National Junior Team) and 15.0 seconds ahead of Tuesday’s skate sprint winner Annika Richardson (NTDC Thunder Bay/National Junior Team) in third.