The first two big rollerski extravaganzas, Blinkfestivalen and Wiesbaden’s City-Biathlon are in the record books, and guess what? The Norwegians had lots of fun and look ready to pick up exactly where they left off last March, at the top of the biathlon heap.
These rollerski competitions are viewed mainly as “tests” to see how the summer training is progressing with the bonus of matching up against foreign rivals. After two weekends, things were looking bright for the Boe brothers, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Tiril Eckhoff, and a couple of non-Norwegians, Dorothea Wierer and Julia Simon.
Vetle’s Impressive Hat Trick
Christiansen’s Blink hat trick impressed with solid shooting when it counted, aggressive skiing in both the super sprint and mass start, topped off by confident sprinting in the last few hundred meters to claim the mass start. Christiansen looks like a man who wants a ticket to Beijing next February.
Tarjei Boe although he did not win at Blink or City-Biathlon, passed all of the summer tests. His shooting was just a notch below Christiansen at Blink and in Wiesbaden, a super last standing stage almost propelled him to second place. The Norwegian veteran skied with power both weeks. What-could-have-been in Wiesbaden disappeared with two crashes due to equipment failure, but in general, Tarjei seems ready for a productive winter season.
The big question was three-time IBU Total Score winner JT Boe’s preparedness. Other than a nice sprint that gave him fourth in the Blink super sprint, he did not look that good compared to his brother and Christiansen. That all changed in Wiesbaden. His shooting was a work in progress, but from the start, he looked like the man who loves to lead and challenge his rivals to catch him. Fat chance of that happening! The last two perfect standing stages were among his best, superbly confident and blazingly fast. With a commanding lead, Johannes played to the crowd by stopping at one point to look back, see no one in sight, shake his head, and smile before cruising to the finish. No worries about where his Olympic season is headed.
Like JT, Tiril Eckhoff was not much of a factor in one Blink competition, the super sprint. In the mass start, she looked like the woman who won 13 times last season. After a shaky first prone with two penalties, her focus went razor-sharp, closing the last 15 targets without hesitation, then burying her young teammate Karoline Knotten in the last loop for a 22-second win. Eckhoff, is headed to the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival next; if she is as focused as in the Blink mass start, the only question is who will be second?
Julia Simon was the French bright spot at Blink. Two clean standing stages put her in control as she powered her way to the super sprint win. The mass start fourth place was not as impressive, but the 17-of-20 shooting was well above her historical level; Simon seems to be working on her weakness. The lady who won two BMW IBU World Cup mass starts last season was again solid at City-Biathlon, giving Dorothea Wierer a good scare by going out just eight seconds back after the last standing. Unfortunately, Simon melted from the 29C heat in the last loop, but still finished second. The always determined Simon will lock horns against Eckhoff and others in Annecy. It will be interesting to see how she handles another mass start in front of a high-expectation home crowd.
Doro is Back
Dorothea Wierer won at City-Biathlon; showing just enough of the cards to let everyone know last season may have just have been a rough patch. Although not shooting perfectly, she had that rapid-fire Doro thing going several times with one brilliant standing stage. On the tracks, she looked strong even in the heat, and once in front, there was no doubt she would top Simon for the win.
Wierer mouthed the words everyone who competed at Blink and City-Biathlon was thinking: appreciate the opportunity to compete against someone other than her teammates. “This was very good training; it was good to have international competition. It brings a completely different tension compared to when you compete among each other in the team.”
Photos: Blinkfestivalen/ Asgeir Ravndal, Hans Lie, Atle Mork, Media Madlamark Skolkorps/ Andersen Oyvind; Wiesbaden/ Harald Deubert