After a couple of missed years due to Covid-19, two major teams, the Norwegian men and the combined Swedish squad made breaks to sunnier climes, kicking off the 2022/23 season. The Norwegians including the Boe brothers and Sturla Holm Laegreid headed to Mallorca for a week of long tours in the sunshine, with Laegreid quipping while relaxing after a long day in the saddle, “First vacation—I mean training camp, with the team.”
2,000 kms east from Mallorca, the full Swedish squad with the Oeberg sisters, Olympic mass Start Silver Medalist Martin Ponsiluoma, Sebastian Samuelsson and Co. landed in Crete for a week of cycling, roller skiing and strength training in an outdoor gym. Although the focus was on base training in the warm sunny weather, there was enough time for some fun. Samuelsson and Coach Johannes Lukas went head-to-head on the tennis court with the coach coming out on top in a hard-fought battle.
Last week, the German men: Benedikt Doll and Co took over where the Norwegians left off, with a cycling camp in the hills of Mallorca, laying the groundwork for the new season.
While others were away from home, Olympic 15 km individual Gold Medalist Denise Herrmann, recently confirmed for another season and her teammate Franziska Preuss were both cycling on familiar roads and trails near their Ruhpolding home base. The team’s first camp with new Coach Sverre Roeiseland kicked off today Ruhpolding. Herrmann commented on Instagram, “Summer is here and with it the long bike units…in the saddle early this morning with fantastic weather.”
While those teams were toiling away in the sunshine, the French team announced their 13-person (7 women, 6 men) World Cup squad’s first team camp was pushed to early June. French Biathlon Director Stephane Bouthiaux explained to Nordic Magazine, “that it would have been a mistake to start early (after a pressure-packed Olympic season) …there was more benefit in postponing by three weeks than resuming as usual…and risking that the athletes had not recovered physically or mentally.”
As expected, World Cup Total Score titlist Quentin Fillon Maillet heads the men’s squad along with Emilien Jacquelin, Emilien and Fabien Claude, Antonin Guigonnat and Eric Perrot. New Women’s Coach Cyril Burdet has four veterans led by Olympic Mass Start Champion Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, recently confirmed for at least another season Olympic 15 km Individual Silver medalist Anais Chevalier Bouchet, her sister Chloe and Julia Simon. Three youngsters Paula Botet, Caroline Colombo and Lou Jeanmonnot complete the women’s team.
With the first team gathering weeks away, Jacquelin and Guigonnat, Martin Fourcade and a couple of friends kicked off cycling season for an off-road gravel tour. After a similar trip in Tuscany last year, the group chalked up some big kilometers in Spanish Catalonia. Reflecting the off-road nature of the trip, Jacquelin’s ride computer showed “112 km and 6:12: in the saddle as they finished on the Mediterranean coast one afternoon.
Like the French team, the newly revamped Italian team started a bit later than usual, holding their first camp last week in Viareggio on the Tuscan Coast. Virtually the whole team was on hand, working on shooting basics and cycling with the new staff and even stopping for a team photo in front of an unmistakable Italian landmark, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Lukas Hofer was the exception after a personal best 4th in the OWG men’s pursuit and recent shoulder surgery to correct a long standing problem. While his teammates were on the coast, he was grinding away cycling in the mountains, with snow all around. Hofer, “with new input and motivation” is embarking on a different program, training in summer with the Swedish team while Swedish Head Coach Johannes Lukas and Italian Coach Alex Inderst cooperate on Hofer’s program.
Not everyone was totally focused on early season cycling. The Czech Republic men gathered at home in Letohrad while the ladies encamped at Jablonec nad Nisou, both spending time in the gym and on the shooting range. Coach Egil Gjelland led the ladies out for a two-hour run one afternoon while the men got acquainted with new shooting coach Matt Emmons. Like their counterparts training on sunny Mediterranean islands, there was also some time for fun. The men found time for some pickup football on the best nearby pitch: the smooth green grass at the shooting range!
One-by-one, teams are on the move, cycling, roller skiing, and firing their first rounds on the road to the 2022 BMW IBU World Cup season and the 2023 IBU World Championships in Oberhof.
Photos: Sturla Holm Laegreid, Emilien Jacquelin, Henrik Kindren, Benedikt Doll, Mirco Romanin, Martin Fourcade, Lukas Hofer