Leading Contenders after Doro, Johannes and Co.
There is no doubt that Johannes Thingnes Boe, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Dorothea Wierer, Denise Herrmann and several other stars will take their share of the victories in the new BMW IBU World Cup season. Yet beyond this elite group, there are numerous contenders who will grab their share of the glory. Just think Lisa Vittozzi, Julia Simon, Franziska Preuss, Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, Simon Desthieux, Alexander Loginov and Benedikt Doll; any one of them plus a few others could be the spoilers.
Men to Watch
IBU Sprint World Champion Alexander Loginov tops the list of potential spoilers in the new season. Loginov’s World Championship title is undoubtedly the high point of his career so far. Although he had three IBU WCH medals previously, winning the title put him in rare air. He shot clean and had the second fastest track time in the thin air of Antholz. Coming back for third in the pursuit proved the sprint was no fluke. Loginov’s weak link was his inconsistency, nowhere close to his seven podiums in the 2018/19 season when he finished second in the IBU World Cup Total Score. If he comes to the new season anywhere near his Antholz or 2018/19 form, Loginov could be the big spoiler in the men’s field.
Tarjei Boe is coming off his third consecutive strong season, finishing fourth in the Worlds Cup Total Score. He is not the same “kid” that won that title in 2011, but a seasoned veteran who may not take victory but each week will be in the mix for the top six. Tarjei is now shooting better than ever and can still go deep in the red zone on the tracks in pursuit of the podium. Inside the head of this man who laughs easily is a tough competitor; one who concedes his brother’s talent but is unafraid to challenge him. Tarjei is a key cog in the Norwegian men’s relay; the set-up man for a typical spectacular anchor leg by his brother.
Simon Desthieux is the third man in the strong French team. Being the third man on the French team is like being the team leader in many nations. His four podiums last season tied a career best; his shooting was a career high 84%. Desthieux’s strength has always been on the tracks and generally his best competition is the sprint with second place on three occasions. He won the final sprint of the French rollerski season against his more renowned teammates. It would be no surprise to see a French podium sweep at some point this season; it is likely Desthieux will be part of it.
2017 IBU World Sprint Champion Benedikt Doll finished eighth in the IBU World Cup Total Score last season, his third consecutive year in the top 10. Doll is a determined battler; not the prettiest or most fluid skier, but fast. He remains below 80% on the shooting range, but some days; see Annecy Le Grand Bornand sprint, he finds the magic and pulls out a win. Doll always gets an “A” for effort and once again in the new season will be a potential spoiler.
Johannes Dale does not own an individual BMW IBU World Cup podium, but the 23- year-old finished ninth in the World Cup Total Score in his first full BMW IBU World Cup season. Emilien Jacquelin calls him “very talented and the man to watch this season.” Another summer of training and closely supervised shooting range work probably bring him that first podium before the calendar turns over to 2021.
Jakov Fak has to be considered as the hardened veteran who could be in the mix once again this season. Fak is focused on winning a medal at his home IBU WCH next February at Pokljuka; it is a realistic possibility. Fak owns two Olympic Winter Games medals, four individual IBU WCH medals and the uncanny ability to rise to the occasion on the biggest stages. He closed 87% of his targets last season, shot clean in the Nove Mesto sprint to finish fifth. He and his teammates will have a definite advantage at Pokljuka where they train almost every week. No one will be surprised to see Fak battling for the podium in what will be a special season for the Slovenian team.
It has been said for many years that any of 25 men can win on any given day in the BMW IBU World Cup circuit. Not so for the women; it frequently has been a small group of 3-5. However, those days are past. After, Doro, Denise, Marte, Tiril, and Hanna, there are several others to watch.
Franziska Preuss only needs one thing to move up from her sixth place in the World Cup Total Score last season: good health. Preuss missed four competitions last year; injuries and illness have been a constant for her over the years. She has both the track talent and shooting skill (87%) to match most of her rivals. Preuss has just one BMW IBU WC victory, but finished last season with two individual podiums, third in the Nove Mesto Mass Start and second in the Kontiolahti Sprint. Starting the new season where she left off might push her to a top 3 in the Crystal Globe fight by the season’s end.
Lisa Vittozzi succumbed to expectations last season. After battling teammate Wierer the previous year for the big Crystal Globe, everyone expected Vittozzi to be brilliant last season after a dominating summer rollerski season. It did not happen; she looked tired from the beginning and never gained traction, claiming just two podiums while her shooting dropped from 88% to 80%. Many people forgot that Vittozzi was just 23 when she had that big season; very young. Now, the focus has shifted from her. Look for Vittozzi to come back refreshed and ready to give Italy a strong 1-2 punch once again.
Simon ended last season with her first-ever BMW IBU World Cup victory, taking the Kontiolahti pursuit, capping an excellent well-balanced year. She picked up her first podium with third in the Oestersund individual, then mid-season grabbed podium #2 with third in the Oberhof sprint. Those three podiums show her versatility: solid shooting in the four-stage competitions and ski speed good enough to put her up with the sprinting speedsters. All that added up to 8th in the World Cup Total Score, a career high point. The 24-year-old continued to progress over the summer and had a brilliant day at Wiesbaden. She shot clean and extremely fast, making the targets look like a carnival game and backed it up with a dominating ski performance. Simon’s trajectory is nowhere but up. Do not be surprised to see her become a podium regular this season.
Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold
The other 24-year-old to watch is the irrepressible Tandrevold; the Norwegian with the dry sense of humor who always has a quick comeback for any question. However, in the stadium, she is all business, 7th in the World Cup Total Score and an integral part of the undefeated Norwegian women’s relay team supports that. Like Simon, she picked up three podiums last season; two seconds and a third, shoots well at an 82% clip and has the same versatility in both four-stage and sprint competitions. The Norwegian is not quite as fast as Simon on the range, but these two are pretty well matched on skis. This will be Tandrevold’s fourth full season on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit and looks primed her first victory.
Both the men’s and women’s fields will be stronger and deeper than ever this season; there will be plenty of surprises beyond the top contenders because…it is biathlon and anything can happen! Stay tuned...
Photos: IBU/Bjorn Reichert, Evgeny Tumashov, Christian Manzoni