World Cup 5: Ruhpolding, Germany
From Oberhof, Clare and Susan drove with the US Biathlon World Cup contingent while Jake, coming from Poland, met them in Germany en route to Ruhpolding. Driving from rainy, snowless Munich, the team first encountered snow just before pulling off the highway nine kilometers from Ruhpolding. Yet when they pulled into the hotel there was three feet of snow layered over everything (so much that signs plastered on buildings all over town warned pedestrians of the danger of falling snow from the roofs) and falling from the sky were the first flakes of a blizzard that would last the remainder of the day and add eight fresh inches to the snowy landscape. Most of the snowbase had come from record-setting storms earlier in the winter, and road closures and avalanche warnings from those storms were still in effect. While the US team was lucky to stay just 5 min from the race venue, other teams had to drive up to an hour due to road closures to get to their hotels. The avalanche warnings caused the organizing committee to delay the first race (the men’s sprint) by one day; men and women both raced the sprint on Thursday. The weekend was sunny with temperatures just below freezing- perfect weather for biathlon. In addition to the sprint, both men and women raced a relay, and Clare and Susan raced the mass start (the mass start is limited to 30 starters: the top 25 on the IBU points list are joined by 5 wild cards outside the top 25 who had the best individual performances from the given weekend).
And of course, the German biathlon fans did not disappoint, showing up en masse for their favorite home World Cup. Racing on a course lined with wild fans 3-spectators deep is energizing; it may even be worth having to pass through the unmistakable aroma of fried German cheese during each race loop. What feels a little strange coming from Craftsbury, where you can escape into the silence of the woods to train, is not only racing but also training in front of an audience of thousands of fans. The fans arrive hours before the race to claim their favorite course-side spots and on days where athletes are not racing (for example, much of the team on mass-start day, where only 30 athletes race), training still takes place and usually at the venue.
IBU Cup 6: Lenzerheide, Switzerland
From Arber it was on to Lenzerheide, Switzerland for the IBU Cup crew. Lenzerheide was beautiful, the “Canmore of Europe” as Raleigh called it, with jagged mountains rising into blue sky on all sides. The team raced a sprint, pursuit, and relay in Lenzerheide, and all GRP athletes qualified for the pursuit by finishing in the top 60 in the sprint. Emily led the way in the pursuit, moving up from 27th to 18th with three penalties. The all-GRP team of Alex, Raleigh, Hallie, and Emily also started a mixed relay for the US.
World Cup 6: Antholz-Anterselva, Italy
While the IBU Cup team wrapped up January competition in Switzerland, the World Cup crew traveled from Bavaria through Austria and over the Brenner Pass to Antholz-Anterselva in the South Tirol of Italy (a bilingual region of Italy, each town in the South Tirol has both a German and Italian name). The Antholz valley is a stunningly beautiful place with mountains blanketed in plenty snow and basked in plenty of sun: a cross-country skier’s paradise, or close to it. Accordingly, the biathlon venue is one of the most popular among athletes. The course contains a blend of rolling terrain through woods with more challenging climbs and snaking descents through open snow-laden meadows with jaw-dropping mountain views. Although clouds and snow made their way up the Antholz valley most mornings, by race time in the afternoons the sky was clear. Windy conditions and 1640m altitude made shooting more challenging than in Ruhpolding. Once again, however, that’s part of the sport. The race lineup for Antholz was the traditional sprint, pursuit, mass-start weekend; GRP highlights were Jake scoring a World Cup point with 40th in the sprint and Clare’s 15th in the mass start! Whether good or bad performances, it’s easy to be content in Antholz with the delightful weather and another delicious family club (think the best of both Italian and German food: all types of pasta, pretzels, würst, soft and hard cheeses, soups, and desserts).
After the final races concluded on Sunday, January 27, we were reunited in Munich, albeit tired and happy to be heading home. Racing continues for the GRP biathlon team at the NorAm Cup this weekend in Jericho, VT (Feb 1 and 3), on the World Cup in Canmore, AB (Feb 7-10) followed by Soldier Hollow, UT (Feb 14-17), and on the IBU Cup at the Open European Championships in Minsk, Belarus (Feb 20-24). Follow all the IBU results at www.biathlonresults.com and look for updates on our team page www.greenracingproject.com. This weekend’s NorAm results can be found at http://www.eabiathlon.org/results.html. Thanks for reading!