Hochfilzen is always one of my favorite stops on the circuit. Every year it provides both good racing and some absolutely gorgeous views. This year we had the full spectrum of weather from a beautiful snowfall on Saturday to just spectacular sunshine on Sunday. We also had the full spectrum from close exciting races to some…not so exciting races. This is a big one so without further ado:
Best Overall Men’s Performance: Quinton Fillon Maillet. No men absolutely dominated this weekend but QFM had, in my opinion the best all around weekend. He started with a 7th place finish in the Sprint and capitalized on starting just 25 seconds behind Kuehn to grab the Pursuit win on Saturday. During the Pursuit he slowly closed the gap on Kuehn leading to him taking the lead within the last few hundred meters before the final shoot. Just a great tactical move to show Kuehn his back and get into his head before the last shoot. QFM shot clean and Kuehn made a mess of things. QFM skied away for a relative easy 4th lap and a 32 second win over Jacquelin. He also had a good closing leg in the French relay but by the time he was up the final order was pretty much set barring a collapse from Christiansen which just didn’t happen. For what its worth he still shot clean and closed the gap from 50 seconds to 11 at the finish. Up to 4th in the overall standings QFM is making some noise. Great weekend!
Best Overall Women’s Performance: Marte Olsbu Røeiseland & Hanna Sola. I honestly couldn’t choose just one for the women. Hanna Sola started the weekend with an absolutely dominant performance in the Sprint race. She won by a fairly ridiculous 46.8 seconds. She was really really fast all around. She was 2nd fastest on the course, 10/10 on the range, and 2nd fastest on the range for good measure. Hanna Sola is in the middle of breakout season (in just her 2nd full time season on the World Cup level). Her Pursuit race wasn’t quite so good, but that’s where Røeiseland steps in. Spoiler alert but I’ve written about it more below as the race of the weekend. Long story short Røeiseland overcame an over 1 minute deficit in the last 2 laps with clean shooting and grabbed the win in the last half of the last lap. In the process she grabbed the yellow jersey as overall leader for the women’s World Cup! Definitely deserves some recognition!
Best Young Athlete Men: Sebastian Samuelsson. Definitely wasn’t Samuelsson’s best weekend of the season but he still had a podium finish in the Pursuit racing coming back from 14th all the way to 3rd. If he goes 18/20 with his speed right now he’s going to be in the mix. He also took over the yellow jersey in the men’s circuit so overall a successful weekend.
Best Young Athlete Women: Elvira Öberg. Öberg and Samuelsson had nearly parallel weekends. Both had just okay races in the Sprint with Samuelsson finishing 14th and Öberg 17th. Both used good shooting and terrific speed to race back up to 3rd in the Pursuit. They differ only in the relay where Öberg’s squad won their relay. Öberg certainly had the best weekend of the any of the under 25 year old women in the World Cup.
Best Men’s Race: Pursuit. I already described the tension at the top of the race above when describing why QFM was the best men’s biathlete of the week. There was more excitement later on though. France came within a hair of sweeping the podium. Jacquelin had a very steady race rising from 6th to 2nd and staying consistently in the top 5 the entire race. The closest he got was being with QFM going to the range for the first standing shoot but his only miss of the day provided the separation for QFM. Behind Jacquelin Desthieux and Samuelsson came down to an absolute sprint to the finish. At first it looked like Desthieux had done it, and it was announced as such, but on further review Samuelsson was 3rd in a very close photo finish. Forgotten in the mix was Tarjei Bø who was just .5 seconds further back in 5th place to continue a very solid season. The top 10 was rounded out by some very good finishes from Anton Smolski, Terro Seppälä, and Vasilii Tomshin.
Best Women’s Race: Pursuit. This race won by default as the Sprint and the relay weren’t particularly close. However it had a pretty amazing finish too. Sola dominated the early part of the race leading by over 1 minute heading to the range for the 3rd time. That’s where everything started to go a little sideways for her. 2 misses on the 3rd shoot and another on the 4 shoot opened the door to Røeiseland. Røeiseland started the last lap still down 10 seconds but she stepped on the gas and Sola seemed to be in skiing in mud on the last lap. Not sure what happened to Sola but her skiing progressively worsened throughout the weekend. Don’t know if the effort from the Sprint caught up with her, the overall effort of these first 3 weeks, or the Belarussian ski techs had a bad day with the suddenly sunny weather but Røeiseland blasted by Sola in the last half of the 5th lap. Further back Elvira Öberg used some of her best shooting of the year along with her always in form skiing to ride up all the way from 17th to the podium. We saw some other big risers like Davidova from 20th to 6th, Voigt from 27 to 11, Tandrevold from 53 to 15(!), and Chevalier-Bouchet coming back from dead last to a more respectable 22nd. It didn’t always look like it but it was a good race!
1) Signs of Life?:
a) Norwegian Women: For the first time all season the Norwegian women outside of Røeiseland showed their very first signs of life. Tiril Eckhoff showed off her best speed of the season finishing 6th in the Sprint race and having one of the fastest showings during the relay race. Ida Lien had her career best mentioned below. She showed some fight at the end of last season and now has a 4th this season. Tandrevold came back from 53 to 15 in the pursuit race. Less pressure when you start that far back but still good to see.
b) Russian Men: Last year was a bit of a down year with the highest finishing Russia man being Loginov all the way down in 17th. This season Latypov is sitting 6th and we’ve seen better finishes from the men including Loginov’s 4th in the Sprint this weekend. Tomshin also a young man with a first career top 10 this weekend. 2 podiums for the relay team already matches their total from last season as well.
c) German Men: The German men without Peiffer looked absolutely lost the first weekend or so. However things are starting to look better as Kuehn grabs the first German W of the season and the relay team finished 4th again. Not what German fans are going to expect but definitely improving
2) More Career Bests:
a) Johannes Kuehn – Already mentioned but he won his first career World Cup race. Best finish since a 3rd in Sprint in Oberhoff in 2019-2020 season
b) Ida Lien – The young woman as mentioned above has her first career top 4! She was starting to show something at the end of last season with a handful of top 20 showings. Well now she has a 4th place to go with her 10th in the opening Sprint in Ostersund as her first two top 10’s! She’s still just 24 so still some improvement coming.
c) Stina Nilsson – Starting to show her potential with a 10th place finish in the Pursuit this weekend. There is always the question would you rather teach a skier how to shoot or a shooter how to ski? Well she’s one test of this.
d) Irina Kazakevich – As far as I could tell her 9th in the Pursuit race was her first ever solo top 10. Had a handful of top 15’s but successfully broke into the top 10 this weekend!
e) Anton Smolski – Quite nearly my best young male athlete of the weekend he got his first TWO top 10’s. Finished a terrific 3rd in the Sprint race and backed it up with a 6th in Pursuit.
f) Vasilii Tomshin – Mentioned above his first career top 10. Don’t know what took him so long. It was already his 4th race of his World Cup career when he did it!
g) Dzmitry Lazouski – Very early in his career as well he grabbed 9th in the Sprint. Previous career best was 34th in the season opening Individual race.
h) Olli Hiidensalo – Juuuuust missed his first career top 10 finishing 11th in the Sprint race. Previous career best: 18th in a Sprint last season. Where? Hochfilzen.
3) Career Best Seasons?: No career best finishes for this crew but they are all having very good seasons. Would all represent a solid step up from where they traditionally have been.
a) Terro Seppälä – Finished 29th and 8th to give himself a third career top 10 and second this season. He’s currently 16th in the Men’s overall. His last 2 seasons were his best finishes at 37th and 36th.
b) Lotte Lie – A 46th in Sprint isn’t spectacular but rebounding with a 25th in Pursuit that prior to this season would have been her best ever. I’m sure there are others like Lie out there but she’s caught our eye and we’ll keep following her. Currently 21st overall .
c) Vanessa Voigt – In her first full season on the World Cup level she’s currently 15th overall following another solid weekend that saw her finish 27th in Sprint but rebound to 11th in Pursuit. That’s her third top 12 of the season
d) Others: Hanna Sola, Elvira Oeberg, Dzinara Alimbekava, Eduord Latypov – but you guys know about all these athletes already!
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