Eckhoff keeps growing into her contender role
Flying high and fast with the help of the tailwind created after four consecutive wins starting in Hochfilzen and stretching all through the Annecy - Le Grand Bornand week Tiril Eckhoff headed to the Christmas break with a simple message: “I will train even harder.” While resting and training in Antholz Eckhoff’s boyfriend came to a visit after a month and a half of longing and she said love has helped her to maintain that elusive state of mind of the champion. In highly unpredictable weather conditions in Oberhof, Eckhoff finished fifth in the sprint and second in the mass start, moving within just nine points of the Yellow bib Dorothea Wierer. She was also made anchor of the winning Norwegian really team and mastered a (new) leadership role with excellence as well.
And while Oberhof conditions affected everybody’s shooting statistics but Martin Fourcade’s, Eckhoff’s accuracy for the individual competitions (and ignoring Oestersund’s sprint and individual competitions which will most likely drop off her results counting for the Total Score standing at the end of the season) since Hochfilzen are still great: it is a notch higher tham 88%; an incredible improvement of 12% compared to the average in the last three seasons prior to 2019/2020. Since the sprint in Hochfilzen Eckhoff has been shooting with the 92% accuracy in the prone and 86% in the standing in the individual competitions and skiing at 5% faster than the average. And the most telling data of Eckhoff’s run: she has been winning 52,6 points per competitions in Hochfilzen, Annecy - Le Grand Bornand and Oberhof. That is normally JT Boe's average.
Wierer staying atop, Herrmann and Roeiseland edging closer
Still ahead of Eckhoff in the Total Score is Wierer. Italian superstar has been fighting extremely hard in the last two BMW IBU World Cup weeks, she had very slow skis for her 22t place in the Annecy sprint but bounced back (together with her waxing team) straight away, finishing fourth in the pursuit and second in the mass start in France and then kept a light cold at bay for two four places in Oberhof which might prove crucial at the end of the season for Oberhof is not a venue that suits her style particularly well. Ruhpolding is naturally not a very windy shooting range and Wierer shall feel confident to make the best use of her rapid shooting style. Similar to Wierer has Denise Herrmann kept her chances for the Total Score win alive with hard fought performances in Annecy - Le Grand Bornand and Oberhof. Excluding her underperformance in Hochfilzen where she failed to win any BMW IBU World Cup points is Herrmann winning 39 points per competitions so far. When we compare that to Herrmann winning 7 (seven!) points per competition in Trimester 1 last season we see what a progress the German has done in just twelve months.
Skipping the last week of the Trimester 1 to regroup and refresh her fighting spirit Marte Olsbu Roeiseland returned In Oberhof with a win in the sprint and third place in the mass start. She hopes skipping France will pay off at the end of the season but she is 146 points behind Wierer which is . . . a lot.
Questions looking for answers in Ruhpolding:
- Will Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold find her December form (she won just 23 points in Oberhof)?
- Will Lisa Vittozzi finally show up where the world has been expecting her for weeks?
- Will Julia Simon continue her quiet climb (currently fourth in the Total Score)?
Fourcade has a space to thrive
Martin Fourcade had a summer of deeply reflective thoughts before this season. He came to the conclusion that he was beatable after all. This relaxed him and allowed him to fight again knowing that on most days JT Boe (and possibly somebody else) will be faster for he is at the peak of his biological powers and Fourcade no longer is. While the rest of JT’s challengers thrived chasing overpowering Norwegian knowing they will most probably not succeed and thus second and third place felt like a victory, Fourcade kept stumbling but not caving in. When JT left for the paternal leave everybody but Fourcade got somehow . . . lost. Suddenly the road to the first place was open but that put pressure on everybody but Fourcade. Without JT forcing him to start at full speed, Fourcade could time himself. He imposed himself on the rest of the field in Oberhof, winning in the sprint and the mass start for his 79th win in the BMW IBU World Cup and taking Yellow bib again.
“I don’t take it for granted, not at all,” he said after the mass start win in Oberhof. “I appreciate it, if a have it for just a week, so be it.”
Tarjei Boe was sick during the Christmas break and also Oberhof did nothing good to him: he forgot about the penalty loop in the sprint and lost flowers place (if not podium) with that (already) legendary turn on the tracks and climb back to the penalty loop where and when he lost two minutes. Boe then melted at the last standing shooting in the mass start, missing four times and seven altogether. Tarjei is currently fourth in the Total Score standings, 45 points behind Fourcade and if he is to stay contender he needs to deliver in Ruhpolding. His shooting accuracy in Oberhof was just at 73% (compared to 90% in Trimester 1), his speed dropped 1%, mostly due to the lack of energy related to the Christmas sickness.
Chasing Fourcade will also be Simon Desthieux, who is 35 points behind and finished 6th in the sprint and third in the mass start in Oberhof, keeping his shooting accuracy at 82% and skiing speed at 4% above the average.
Questions looking for answers in Ruhpolding:
- Will Martin Fourcade double down on his Oberhof wins?
- Has Emilien Jacquelin processed Fourcade’s praise after the sprint for he melted on the shooting range in the relay and in the mass start where he missed nine times?
- Is Alexander Loginov still able to join the fight for the Total Score title?