Previewing Men’s Overall Race

A version of this post ran in the Annecy-le Grand Bornand Weekend Recap pt 2.

Coming into this season it felt like the Men’s race could go in any direction. Quinton Fillon Maillet was dominant last season, was he going to claim a form of athletic revenge for Martin Fourcade who lost his title to JT Bø? Was Johannes Thingnes Bøcoming back to spread his wrath and reclaim his throne in dominant fashion? Would Sturla Holm Lægreid finally take the last step to the top of the podium after two seasons finishing 2nd overall? Or would there be a minor surprise coming from Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Emilien Jacquelin or somewhere else?

In the first two weeks in Kontiolahti and Hochfilzen the season had all the looks of 2019-2020. JT Bø skiing exceptionally fast and shooting better than at any time since that season when he had 10 wins in just 17 races and never finished worse than 10th. He came roaring out the gate and winning four of the first five races. Flying under the radar the whole time was Sturla Holm Lægreid.

Then came Annecy. JT Bø won the Sprint to start the weekend. Then came the Fischer ski catastrophe which Lægreid won, and celebrated. The last race of 2022 was the Norwegian ski train Mass Start fantastically won by Johannes Dale but Lægreid again finished ahead of Bø. By the end of the weekend the spread from Bø to Lægreid dropped from 79 points to 34 points.

Suddenly the conversation has shifted from whether its a 1 man race to who is the favorite, Bø or Lægreid? Well the easy answer is JT Bø. He’s one of the greats, he has 3 overall crystal globes in his trophy case at home. This season alone we’ve seen him win 5 races in a row and then this weekend when he wasn’t winning he still came in 3rd. So who is the favorite?

Well first let’s look at the top 10 to get an idea of why I’m only mentioning those two men right now:

AthleteCurrent Score
Johannes Thinges Bø599
Sturla Holm Lægreid565 (-34)
Emilien Jacquelin319 (-280)
Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen285 (-314)
Fabien Claude275 (-324)
Martin Ponsiluoma273 (-326)
Johannes Dale273 (-326)
Quinton Fillon Maillet270 (-329)
Sebastian Samuelsson265 (-334)
Filip Fjeld Andersen258 (-341)

So yeah, basically just the top two at this point. It’s a really great race for the #3 spot and to round out the top 5. I have a very hard time seeing anybody breaking into the overall race. It isn’t impossible though. If somebody from this bunch is going to do it they will need to win and win lots very quickly. Not statistically impossible but realistically not going to happen.

So now JT Bø vs. Stula Holm Lægreid…who is the favorite? Well JT Bø is the obvious pick. He’s done it before and he’s doing it again. He has five wins already. He’s skiing fast and more importantly he’s shooting well. But can we make an argument for Laegried?

First of all Lægreid is no stranger to the crystal globe chase. We all remember the epic competition in 2020-2021 which JT Bø ultimately won on the very last day of competition. Last year he wasn’t exactly in the race but he did finish 2nd again, this time behind QFM. He might be ready to take that final step to the top of the standings. Also his current position ‘s in the standings is no fluke. While JT Bø was winning all of those races here are Lægreidfinishes this season: 6, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 1, 2. In fact Lægreid’s average finishing place of 2.5 is actually better that JT Bø’s average finish of 2.9.

When you look at how Lægreid is doing it, it looks exactly like what we would expect from “classic” Lægreid. In 2020-2021 he finished 7th overall in skiing and shot 92.6%, 2nd only to Simon Eder amongst full time World Cup level competitors. This season Lægreid is skiing even a little better, currently in 3rd position and significantly closer to JT Bø. His shooting of 92.3% is right in line with what we’ve already seen him do.

Are those numbers completely impossible for him to keep up? Yes it’s true we haven’t seen him ski that fast before for a prolonged period of time. On the other hand he’s only 25, would it really be that shocking for him to make a little improvement? Certainly not to me.

What about JT Bø? Well right now he’s skiing the fastest of anybody in the field. But how does this season compare to his last crystal globe season? In 2020-2021 he was 5.48% faster than the average male biathlete. This season he’s 5.47% faster than the average biathlete. He’s been incredibly fast this season but it’s absolutely reasonable to expect him to keep it up.

His shooting on the other hand has taken a massive leap forward. This year he’s at 88.5% overall compared to 85.2% in his last season as overall #1. In fact he’s only shot better than this twice: 2019-2020 when he shot 92.1% and was basically a perfect biathlete and 2016-2017 when he shot 89.4%. So is it reasonable to expect him to keep up this same shooting? Now that actually is a question mark.

After all of that where do we stand? In JT Bø’s favor: He’s done it before and knows how to do it again. He has already been sweeping up wins and if not for bad skis may very well have gained another win this weekend in the Pursuit. He’s been hitting the shots when it counts this season. Also Lægreid hasn’t always come through in clutch moments.

In Læg’s reidfavor: He’s shooting shooting very well but no better than we have seen him in the past and certainly a level he can sustain. He is skiing better than ever, but he was always underrated for his ski talents and this could just be a natural progression as he reaches his peak. Lastly JT Bø is shooting at a level that we might not expect him to maintain which would open the door for Lægreid.

If I was going to set odds on this I would put them something like this:

AthleteChance at Winning the Crystal Globe
Johannes Thingnes Bø55%
Sturla Holm Lægreid44%
Emilien Jacquelin<1%
Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen<1%

So what do I think will happen?? I think Bø is likely still the favorite but I think that’s an awfully compelling argument for Lægreid. With the current scoring system 34 points is basically nothing. We have a tie ballgame with 13 races to go. Game on.

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