Mid-summer Training: Tests, Altitude and Some Fun
The last six weeks have found most teams and athletes on the road at training camps. While continuing to build base strength, cycling, and rollerskiing up steep grades and topping out in thin mountain air, there were also a few tests along the way to gauge the effectiveness of the many hours of training in May and June.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Testival
The Canadians are training almost exclusively at home this year. However, July always starts with their annual Rocky Mountain Testival, five competitions over a week that includes an uphill trail run, uphill double pole race, precision shooting test, uphill skate race and a biathlon time trial. Using the same routes annually gives the staff good markers for comparison each year. The athletes vie for a Yellow Bib awarded to the leaders after each stage. Emma Lunder and Scott Gow pulled on Yellow early in the week and finished the “biathlon pentathlon” as King and Queen of the Mountain.
Sweden Team: Up the Mountains in French Alps, Norway
While the Canadians were toiling away in the Rocky Mountains, the Swedish team held their annual camp in Le Grand Bornand, the site of BMW IBU World Cup 3 this coming December. Like the Canadians, Swedish Head Coach Wolfgang Pichler is a creature of habit, challenging his team over the same routes annually, offering an easy opportunity to check progress annually. Since the big mountains are not a part of the scene in Sweden, the team spent much of the week climbing out of the valley over legendary mountain passes that included the Col de la Colombière and the Col des Aravis on rollerskis and road bikes. As Sebastian Samuelsson, out of breath atop Colombière, “we came here for the mountains!”
After a couple of weeks training at home, the group reassembled in Sandnes, Norway for the competitions, followed by a camp in Torsby, Sweden. Of course, after all of the climbing in France the team was well prepared for one test in Norway: the Lysebotn uphill skate race, 640 meters of climbing over 7.5 km!
French Team in Norway, sans Martin
The French team. without Martin Fourcade also trekked up to Norway for their annual camp and the competitions and got just what Jean Guillaume Beatrix said earlier in the month he expected, “Rain.”However, biathlon is an outdoor sport and the rain proved to be no more than a minor irritation. Still there were plenty of sunny days for cycling, running and hiking in the fresh sea air during their two-week stay, plus it was a nice break from the hot summer weather in France.
Martin in the Pyrenees
While the team was in Norway, Martin Fourcade was training in his old stomping grounds, the Pyrenees with the French cross-country team. A mid-summer trip to the Pyrenees to train and spend time with family has become a part of the winning routine for the six-time World Cup Total Score winner. No reason to mess with success!
Last season’s rising star, Anais Chevalier hit by a car while cycling on May 24 also did not make the trip to Norway. However, her broken clavicle has finally healed well enough to resume training. Although able to run and cycle indoors for several weeks, she recently returned to the shooting range for. Chevalier is still unable to use her ski poles, but is, according to an Instagram post, “almost a real biathlete.”
Italian Team: Fun, Friends in Forni Avoltri; on to Ruhpolding
The Italian team capped a training camp in Obertilliach by a planned easy cycling trip of the 97 km over to Forni Avoltri; Dorothea Wierer pushing the pace, according to Lukas Hofer. Wierer’s reply, "I just wanted Luki to know who was boss!" Wierer, Hofer and their teammates got a little taste of competition in some single mixed relays in Forni that included the Italian juniors, the Swiss ladies, Kaisa Mäkäräinen, Slovenia’s Klemen Bauer and Slovakia’s Martin Otcenas. It was a bit like “old home week,” catching for the first time since the end of the season. Not surprisingly, multi-IBU SBWCH Gold medalist Otcenas and Swiss teammate Susi Meinen came out on top in what was the first hard biathlon race of the new season for almost everyone. Mäkäräinen, fast on her rollerskis, but struggling a bit on the shooting range commented, “A race like that will bring you back to reality very quickly!”
After these low-key competitions, the Italians went on a short break, while the Swiss women were joined by the men’s team for another week at Antholz. The Finnish star continued her summer sojourn training in Toblach and Obertilliach.
3K on the Track
During the summer training season, the breaks are short; just ask Wierer and Co. They went straight from holiday to Ruhpolding. Their summer cardio-fitness test was not in the Chiemgau Arena, but on the running track just outside the village. Both the men and women lined up for a 3K running trial on the track, posting some ties that many athletics’ competitors would envy!
On the easy days this week that followed, Hofer, never one to sit still for very long was back at his number two passion after biathlon…on his paraglider, floating high above the Antholz Valley; no doubt checking out his rivals training at the Antholz stadium!
Anton and Alexey in Sochi
On the #roadtopyeongchang, two Gold medalists, Anton Shipulin and Alexey Volkov went back to the scene of their success, the Laura Biathlon stadium in Sochi for a camp that ended yesterday. Shipulin and Volkov made the most of their time trekking up in the mountains and working on their biathlon skills in the stadium where they thrilled their fans three and a half years ago. Both are expected to do their summer testing when they compete at the IBU SBWCH in Chaykovskiy, Russia later this month.
Altitude in August for Russia, Germany, Belarus and Ukraine
The two Russian male stars were not the only ones making the most of altitude this summer. Several women’s teams are escaping the heat in the thin mountain air. The Russian women, including World Cup winners Tatiana Akimova and Olga Podchufarova just started a camp in Antholz while the German women are in Bormio tacking the Stelvio Pass on rollerskis. The Belarusian women just started a camp in Obertilliach with Coach Alfred Eder. The Ukrainian women are testing out a new venue, the Bessans Biathlon Center in southeast France and of course, typical of Coach Uros Velepec, doing some tough sessions in the surrounding steep mountain roads. These teams and all of their counterparts are making the most of the long days and warm weather.
Biathletes are made in the summer!
Photos from Rosanna Crawford, Nadezhda Skardino, Vanessa Hinz, Federica Sanfilippo, Anais Chevalier, Anton Shipulin, Dorothea Wierer, Martin Fourcade, Simon Fourcade, Matthias Ahrens.