Christiansen, Voigt and Jeanmonnot Victorious at Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival

This afternoon’s Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival in Annecy had only two biathlon competitions, but three biathletes were victorious: two carrying rifles on their back and the third sans rifle.

Vanessa Voigt won the women’s 8.5 km mass start when she cleaned the final standing stage after battling Marketa Davidova throughout the competition. Voigt finished in 23:14.1, with Davidova in second 9.3 seconds back. Last season’s World Cup Total Score winner Julia Simon finished third, 19.8 seconds back.

Less than an hour later Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen took total control of the competition after the first standing stage and went unchallenged to win the men’s 10 km mass start in 25:11.1. Emilien Jacquelin finished second, 22.2 seconds back. 2021 MFNF winner Sturla Holm Laegreid finished third, 31.3 seconds back.

Jeanmonnot wins cross-country race

The day’s competitions kicked off with the women’s cross-country race where Lou Jeanmonnot surprised the field of cross-country stars by taking the victory in 23:37. Austrian Olympic Bronze medalist Theresa Stadlober finished second 1.4 seconds back. Olympic Gold medalist Victoria Carl of Germany finished third 4.2 seconds back.

Jeanmonnot was an unlikely winner in the 6-loop elimination race, where the last competitor is dropped in the first five loops with a sprint last loop for the finish line. She was in the leading group each in each loop, but not pushing the pace. Mid-way through the last loop, the French biathlete took the lead, maintained a small gap and sprinted the last 100 meters to the delight of the French crowd.

“Good preparation for what is to come”

The winner and teammates Sophie Chauveau and Gilonne Guigonnat were just added to the field two days ago. Their coach Cyril Burdet thought it would be a good finish to their 2-week altitude camp in Font Romeu, not expecting one of his charges to win. Eleventh in the World Cup Total Score last season, Jeanmonnot when asked if she expected to win, the answer was simple, “No! The last loop was tough. It was fun because I gave everything I had so it was really nice victory. We had a good training camp; everything seems to be working well. So, this was good preparation for what is to come!”

Voigt’s shooting carries the day

Voigt’s win today was her first-ever in a World Cup level competition. Although she won the IBU Cup Total Score in 2021, she only has a single individual BMW IBU World Cup podium, second in the 2022 Otepaeae sprint. One of the top shots on the World Cup circuit (91% last season), the German’s shooting carried her to the win, using just a single spare round. She and last year’s MFNF winner Marketa Davidova came to the last standing stage together, shooting side-by-side. Voigt cleaned quickly while her Czech rival used spares to fall a dozen seconds behind ceding the win to Voigt.

Voigt, “just do my thing”

The winner was thrilled with both the win and the enthusiastic crowd, especially on a 28C bluebird afternoon with the sun bearing down on everyone. “It is amazing; a good crowd. I have been here since Thursday and have felt really welcome. It is a nice place but the weather is a little bit too warm for me. I am really happy…Honestly, I was a little bit afraid when I was reading the start list. But I decided to just do my thing (shoot well) and see how it would be in the end.” Waving to the crowd she added, “Merci!”

Christiansen looking for Jacquelin

Unlike Voigt, who won with consistently good shooting, Christiansen used his share of spare rounds, four to be exact, but only needed one in the last standing stage to seal the win. He and Jacquelin were in a heated battle in the prone stages with Jacquelin at one point aggressively passing and pulling ahead of his rival before the second prone stage. By the last standing stage, Christiansen had left Jacquelin far behind, hitting four of five shots, and using a spare to clean. In strictly Christiansen fashion, the Norwegian closed the last target, turned on the mat, put his hand to his forehead as if looking far into the distance for Jacquelin. He then pivoted, skied the last loop, greeting the fans with several bows and hands above his head as he came to the finish.

“I can still gain some seconds”

Prior to the competition, Laegreid revealed that Christiansen was “in the shape of his life” to which he responded with a laugh, “I can’t say no because I have set some personal records on running tests this late summer. We had our first test race on rollerskis in Obertilliach and it gave me some really good answers. I think he was right but I can still gain some seconds before the winter.”

“I sweated away five kilos!”

Regarding his win, Christiansen, still dripping with sweat before being doused with champagne, added, “It was a lot of fun. I knew I was in good shape, so I tried to go for it on the first loop. It was kind of fun and kind of tough. I think I sweated away five kilos out there It was mostly fun…at least the last loop was fun.”

The fourth Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival was again a fantastic set of competitions, and a great show for the fans, with over 12,000 in the tribunes and lining the tracks. Those fans had plenty of up-close and personal time with the athletes with hundreds of people lining up at the autograph boots and every athlete posed gladly for selfie after selfie all day long. And most of all, it was another great day for biathlon with two rising stars standing atop the podium and a veteran putting on a show for the crowd like only he can. Now it is a week of rest and then the final push to the beginning of the winrter season.

Photos: IBU/Nordic Focus

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