Martin Fourcade’s Masterpiece: Le Grand Bornand Mass Start Victory
Martin Fourcade gave the partisan crowd at le Grand Bornand exactly what they wanted: a masterful biathlon performance in a clean-shooting, 37:19.4 victory and a sweep of today’s mass start competitions after Justine Braisaz won earlier. Second place went to the sprint/pursuit double winner Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway, with two penalties, 3.9 seconds back. Erik Lesser of Germany finished third, also shooting clean, 6.2 seconds back.
Anton Shipulin of Russia who contended for the podium late in the competition finished fourth, also shooting clean, 25.1 seconds back. Benjamin Weger of Switzerland finished fifth, with one penalty while Germany’s Arnd Peiffer finished sixth, 40.5 seconds back.
Fourteen Clean in Prone
The final BMW IBU World Cup competition of 2017 was treated to more perfect biathlon weather. Fourcade led the field into the stadium after the first loop, settling in on lane on. He and13 others cleaned. Shipulin was the first out, with Lesser and Fourcade just 2.8 seconds back and the 14th man Maxim Tsvetkov 16.8 seconds off Shipulin’s pace. Mid-way through the second loop, the Yellow Bib was leading the tightly grouped train.
Pressure From Lesser
In the second prone stage, Lesser shot blindingly fast and clean to take the lead, with Shipulin on his shoulder. Surprising Weger left in third just in front of Fourcade and Peiffer. The Yellow Bib once again shot very carefully but clean which left him 11.6 seconds back. Yet within about 700 meters, the French fan favorite was back at the head of the pack of five men, heading to the first standing stage. At this stage, Lesser was going stride-for-stride with Fourcade, not giving an centimeter.
The first standing stage was like a carnival shooting gallery, with the speedy German, Fourcade and Shipulin firing in succession, dropping every target to the roar of the crowd. The left in unison, with a 20.3 second gap to fourth place, Johannes with Eder on his shoulder. By the 10.2K split, it was starting to look like a Shipulin/Fourcade duel as the German started to fall back a little. Yet 500 meters later, Fourcade put on a burst of speed on an uphill, opening a gap on the other two men, giving him a 13 second lead.
Five Targets Closed, Fist Pump and Victory
Fourcade shot with authority in the final standing stage; all five targets closed. Then there was the trademark fist pump to the crowd and he was on his way to the second French victory of the day. Lesser and Shipulin continued to fight for second place, again matching with clean stages, leaving the stadium in lockstep. Just as quickly, Johannes jumped into the fray, now battling lesser as Shipulin faded out of contention. As they battled around the tracks, the Yellow Bib skied powerfully but comfortably with a smile and a growing lead. Fourcade led the way into the stadium, French flag and his first win in this home World Cup in hand!
“Most Amazing Competition”
Fourcade admitted that today’s mass start was something very special on several ways. “I cannot rank importance of victories, but in terms of emotions, it is probably the most amazing competition of my life. It was something pretty incredible to be supported by all of the fans. I really lived the dream…We want a World Cup at home and know it is not the same as competing in Norway, but it is so much bigger in terms of emotions, I would do it again…this was probably the most crazy race of my life; I will remember it for a long time…today was mostly a race against myself and I am happy that I succeeded.”
Podium Number Two
Lesser has already improved on previous seasons. “I am very happy with my race today. Looking back, in the past seasons I have been only on the podium one time; now I have two… It was tough against these guys. Martin was always aggressive on the tracks and never was happy with my pace. I struggled with my standing shooting in some races but shot clean today, so I am satisfied.”
The BMW IBU World Cup season now takes a holiday break, resuming on January 4, 2018 with the women’s sprint in Oberhof, Germany.