On the first weekend in September, the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival was held for the second time in Annecy. After the festival had to be cancelled last year due to the Corona pandemic and no race with spectators could take place during the whole season, this was a successful start for the upcoming season. With bright sunshine and a great crowd of spectators, the best biathletes and cross-country skiers celebrated a weekend all about the sport.
Anais Chevalier-Bouchet and Sturla Holm Laegreid uncatchable
The course in Annecy, along the large lake in the middle of the city, which the biathletes had to master on roller skis, together with the spectators provided a magnificent scenery and a special atmosphere for all athletes. At the premiere of the festival in 2019, Martin Fourcade still competed himself and was able to win the race then as well. This year, as chief organizer, he just gave the starting signal. Eight women and eight men competed against each other in the biathlon mass start, and in cross-country skiing, after previous individual qualifications, the race was also decided in the mass start.
The first race of the day was contested by the female biathletes. After the first two prone shootings everyone was still close to each other and no athlete was able to distance herself from her competitors. The first decision was then made in the standing shooting. Anais Chevalier-Bouchet from France was able to win with two clean shooting performances in the standing stage. Norwegian Tiril Eckhoff had to reload more often but once again showed her impressive form on the track and secured second place ahead of Germany's Franziska Preuß. Fourth went to Paulina Fialkova from Slovakia ahead of Poland's Monika Hojnisz-Starega. Sixth place went to France's Julia Simon, seventh place to Lisa Theresa Hauser from Austria and eighth place to Mari Eder from Finland.
The course of the men's mass start was very similar to the women's mass start. At first all eight athletes were still close to each other so that there was no decision in the air after the first two shooting stages. However, from the first standing shooting the outcome of the race was clear - the Norwegian Sturla Holm Laegreid once again proved his absolute top form, on the track and at the shooting range. With a big lead the Norwegian crossed the finish line in the men's mass start and could already be celebrated by the enthusiastic spectators during his last lap. Second place went to Russia's Said Karimula Khalili ahead of the strong German Benedikt Doll. Fourth place was won by Quentin Fillon Maillet from France, ahead of Jakov Fak from Slovenia and his French team-mate Simon Desthieux in sixth place. The seventh place went to Antonin Guigonnat, also from France, ahead of Norway's Johannes Dale.
Emma Ribom and Renaud Jay won the cross country races
After that, the final battles in cross-country skiing were still on the program. The starting order was determined on the basis of several individual qualifying races. In these special races in Annecy, the cross-country skiers first had to qualify for the final, after which the podium places were also contested in the mass start on the roller skis.
In the women's race, Emma Ribom from Sweden was able to defeat the strong competition. In an extremely close race, the Swede secured first place ahead of Laurien van der Graaff from Switzerland. Third place went to Flora Dolci from France ahead of her teammate Delphine Claudel. Fifth and sixth places also went to France with Juliette Ducordeau and Lena Quintin. Nadine Fähndrich from Switzerland finished seventh.
In the men's race, the starting field consisted of eleven Frenchmen and five foreign athletes. Actually, one of these athletes would have been the two-time overall World Cup winner Alexander Bolshunov, but the Russian would have had to serve a ten-day quarantine due to his Corona vaccination with the Russian vaccine Sputnik and could therefore not travel to France. So it was mainly the French who had to decide the victory among themselves. In the end, in a gripping duel, the Frenchman Renaud Jay was able to prevail over the Norwegian Paal Troean Aune. Arnaud Chautemps from France finished in third place ahead of his teammate Adrien Backscheider. Fifth place went to the Czech Michal Novak, sixth to Théo Schély ahead of Tom Mancini, both also from France.
Fotos: K. Voigt Fotografie