The final weeks in October were a mixed bag of roller skiing, shooting in fall sunshine, rainy conditions and some initial on-snow forays on glaciers and in ski tunnels.
The Norwegian team made one last trip south for a 12-day camp in Oberhof, site of the 2023 IBU World Championships. New father Tarjei Boe and training-away-from-the team Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland were missing in action, but Johannes Thingnes Boe, Sturla Holm Laegreid and Co were at the Thüringen venue. The ski tunnel put the team as Laegreid said in an Instagram, post, “back on snow.” The Norwegians also got a taste of what Oberhof could throw at them in February: heavy fog, sunless days and tracks just as hard whether rollerskiing or on the white stuff.
Unsurprisingly, the home team Germany was also on the scene; a few days of their camp coincided with the Norwegians. Benedikt Doll found himself just ahead of JT Boe on the rollerski tracks, commenting, “Hey Johannes Boe, are you ready for Oberhof? I’m looking forward to the fights this winter!” Now these two teams are heading their separate ways for on snow training. The Germans will prepare in Vuokatti; the Norwegians will stay at home, with their November 12-13season-opener moved to Lillehammer due to lack of snow at their usual opener venue in Sjusjoen.
Poland and Czech Republic were among the other teams taking one last opportunity before the season to test the challenging Oberhof tracks and the shooting range where many medals will be likely decided.
Although Oberhof’s Lotto Thüringen Skisport-Halle was a popular spot last month, multiple teams including Ukraine, Slovakia, and Italy were in Austria. Ramsau is a fall favorite, with its annual ritual of skiing almost endless parallel loops on the Dachstein Glacier. Paulina Batovska Fialkova summed it up with “October tradition is the glacier.”
The Austrians and Swiss squads put in some quality time on the valley shooting range and multiple hours on the glacier in what Swiss Women’s Coach Sandra Flunger described as, “maybe the best conditions on the glacier in recent years.”
In a change from last season when they were short of on-snow time before the season, the French team made the trek across central Europe for a camp at Ramsau, their second touch on snow. A month earlier, Les Bleus were in the Oberhof tunnel. Like everyone else in Ramsau, it was sunshine and smiles up at 2700 meters for the defending World Cup Total Score titlist Quentin Fillon Maillet as he cruised around the plateau.
Not everyone had their last camp in the tunnel or atop the glacier. Double IBU SBWCH Gold medalist Dorothea Wierer and her Italian teammates relied on home cooking late last month, further sharpening their skills at the Südtirol Arena in Antholz. There was no snow, just vivid fall colors and cool crisp days, a perfect ending to the long training season. The Italians were not alone atop the Antholz Valley; the Czech team took advantage of the great conditions for their last camp before heading to Sjusjoen tomorrow.
Three other teams were among those not on a glacier or skiing loops indoors as October closed. Canada, Sweden and Finland had the luxury of Halloween week training on snow at an IBU Cup or World Cup venue. The Canadians got on snow at the Canmore Nordic Centre on October 20; their aptly named “Frozen Thunder” covering the tracks and shooting range. The Maple Leaf team will sleep in their own beds and ski just up the road until they head to Europe in mid-November.
The Finns ended October in Vuokatti, another stored-snow-covered outdoor venue, training in great early winter conditions. Although they were not at home for that camp, Vuokatti is just 2 hours from Kontiolahti. The Kontiolahti cooled tracks opened last week, with a hard white ribbon of snow awaiting the BMW IBU World Cup season-opening competitions.
The Swedish team kept up their own tradition, heading to Idre for their last camp on October 24. The IBU Cup venue will be their home until mid-November. Sweden’s season-opener competitions on the weekend of November 12-13 also serve as trials to fill out their rosters for Kontiolahti and the early IBU Cups at Sjusjoen and Idre.
That is a wrap on the camping season; biathletes are made in the summer…and they race in the winter!
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Nordic Focus, Petr Slavik, Paulina Batovska Fialkova, Biathlon Canada/Graeme Wiliams, Svenskt Skidskytte