I don’t think the IBU World Cup ever really has boring weeks. That’s the benefit of having at least 6 races every weekend of competition…there will always be at least 1 thriller. Nothing boring about this weekend as there is something exciting even about Eckhoff’s wins. It can be really fun to see an athlete hit their absolute peak level for awhile and she’s doing that right now. Actually I would argue she still isn’t at her peak and God help the rest of the Women’s circuit if she does! Okay I’m already giving away the first category so lets dive in!
Best Overall Performance Women: Tiril Eckhoff. You were expecting somebody else? Eckhoff is absolutely head and shoulders above the rest of the rest on the Women’s IBU World Cup Circuit right now. It might be hard to believe but there was a time about halfway through the year when Marte Roeiseland was leading the overall crystal globe race and as many as 5-6 different women had legitimate paths to the title. Heck as late as Antholtz Eckhoff was still in 2nd place. Pretty much since Hochfilzen she’s been on a rocket ship to the top and that doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. With 2 easy wins (and it can’t be stressed enough have stress free these races were for her) Tiril Eckhoff is the champ. Much more on her soon.
Best Overall Performance Men: Simon Desthieux. After being outshone by QFM and Jacquelin all season Simon Desthieux is putting together a very nice close to the season. He put together a terrific 10/10 along with 9th best course time to grab a VERY close sprint race over Sebastien Samuelsson and Arnd Peiffer. Then he backed it up by grabbing 3rd in the pursuit, just tripped up by 2 misses on the 2nd prone shooting. Add that to his 2nd/5th sprint/pursuit combo in Pokljuka and he’s having a late season peak. Great weekend and congratulations on the maiden victory!
Best Young Athlete Performance Women: Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold and Hanna Sola. Okay fine Sola is 25 but that happened less than a month ago! There was no absolute standout performance by any of the young women this weekend but Tandrevold and Sola both had good performances and they were so close it was hard to separate the two. Tandrevold went 6th and 12th in sprint and pursuit while Sola finished 11th and 7th. Edge goes to Tandrevold based on her leading leg 1 for the 4x6km relay to start the weekend while Sola had 5 misses. Really though both were very solid. Both have more podiums in their future and hopefully some victories as well!
Best Young Athlete Performance Men: Endre Stroemsheim. What a weekend! Just his 2nd and 3rd career World Cup level races and he finishes 12th in the sprint and 13th in the pursuit! He’s had a very good year on the IBU Cup where he is currently in 4th in the overall standings. Most recently he won the pursuit race in Brenzo following at 13th in sprint. It can be hard to get looks on the deep Norway squad but Storemsheim took advantage this weekend!
Best Women’s Race: Women’s 4x6km Relay. I’m going to have more about this on Wednesday but the US Women’s Team did something US Women’s Biathlon Relay team had ever done before by finishing within 40 seconds of the top time. Ignoring that it was also just a really fun relay. On the Men’s side Germany won in a landslide but this was nip and tuck. In the final lap there was Sweden and Belarus fighting for the win and France and Ukraine fighting for the last podium spot. Behind that there were Norway, USA, and Italy battle royale for the last top 5 position and it came down to a ski throw.
Best Men’s Race: Sprint and Pursuit. Both of these races were nice and tightly bunched! As a fan it is exactly what you want. The sprit podium saw just 4.4 seconds between Desthieux in first and Peiffer in 3rd. The entire spread between 1st and 10th in both the sprint and the pursuit was just a hair over 37 seconds. There were 24 men that started the pursuit within 1 minute of Simon Desthieux. The pursuit remained clustered nearly the entire race. While Tarjei Bø remained near the top the entire time you had some nice rise and fall with Jacquelin rising to the top briefly and JT Bø steadily climbing through the pack to nearly chase down his brother. Biathlon is fun like this.
a) Men’s Overall Crystal Globe Race: Go to the realbiathlon site right now and check out the state of the overall race right now. It’s a 2 point race! With 2 weekends to go! Major eyes emoji here. I honestly have no idea which way this will go but if Sturla Holm Lægreid wins this in his first full season and going against JT Bø that is an unreal story.
b) Bø Bros: I love seeing siblings race or compete against each other especially at a high level. You know they’ve been going at it for as long as they can remember. And no matter how supportive you are of your siblings its great to be able to beat them every now and then. Tarjei Bø doesn’t get that many chance to beat his little brother so I’m very happy for him this week!
c) German Men: Talk about getting the monkey off your back. It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the German men on the IBU World Cup this season but they certainly took out any frustrations during the 4×7.5km relay on Friday. They absolutely blasted the field winning by 1:21 over Russia. It was their first win since the 2016-2017 season and their first podium since Hochfilzen. The followed that up with some solid individual performances as well. In the sprint Peiffer finished 3rd just 4.4 seconds from the win and Doll finished 6th. In the pursuit Doll finished 8th and Peiffer 10th. Good overall weekend!
d) Scott Gow: Have yourself a week Scott Gow! By far the best sprint and pursuit finishes of the season and its not even close. Sprint finish was 19th and his prior finishes this season were 74, 52, 75, 105, 48, 39, and 77. Looked like a different guy out there. I hope it continues!
a) Hauser – Look when you set the bar that high anything less is always going to be disappointing. Don’t worry she’s not slipping from her place amongst my faves.
b) Ponsiluoma – Where did you go? Every since winning the sprint at Worlds he’s been a bit of a no show resulting in 20th in the sprint this week and then 34th in pursuit. And that was coming on the heels of an 11th for the Swedes in the relay. Bleh.
c) Jake Brown – Oh Jake, what happened man? A really solid sprint race got tripped up when he forgot to do a penalty loop. Likely would have made the pursuit as well. The lesson? The Penalty Loop will ALWAYS get its due.
And with that we’re done. Here’s to another good week in Nove Mesto!