It’s competition time again in Les Contamines-Montjoie!
It was still dark at 8 o’clock in the morning when I perceived the first signs of aggitation in resort. The fourth leg of the French Cup, the Biathlon Challenge National Tour, was programmed to take place here over the weekend. This event brings together a number of athletes, both boys and girls, who compete in several different categories: under 19s, under 21s and seniors (under 30s). The biathlon staduim was covered with a blanket of fresh snow for the occasion.
On the programme: 3 days of events
Friday 6th February: Official training sessions. After these sessions a decision is made concerning the choice of skis and wax for the next two days. All competitors must strictly comply with this decision, a regulation specific to cross-country skiing.
Saturday 7th February: Individual sprint event per race category. Each race includes 3 laps, 1 lying shoot and 1 standing shoot.
Sunday 8th February: Mass start event with a shotgun start. This race includes 5 laps, 2 lying shoots and 2 standing shoots.
For every target missed the competitior has to perform a penalty loop of 150m which consequently lengthens the course and adds to the time! Breathing techniques, fatigue and stress are determining factors, even for a good marksman!
After a successful sprint event in the sunshine on Saturday 7th February it was neceassary to prepare the skis for the following day. Coaches and competitors set up their waxing equipment in the civic hall. Every competitior has to use the waxing technique decided during training. The weather forecast for Sunday was cold and dry so the wax would change. Once prepared, the skis were stored in their respective covers and the room locked.
Meanwhile the officials, judges and coaches gathered for a briefing of the day’s events and the official Race Committee meeting, a chance for the local ski club to demonstrate their excellent organization and attention to detail: bib distribution (to be worn on the right thigh) alignments for the mass start, race times etc.
It was a beautiful cold sunny morning on Sunday 8th February and I decided to hit the slopes early. After 2 hours of intense skiing on cold hard snow, from the top of Aiguille Croche to the bottom of Grevett, I decided to take a detour via Hauteluce before heading back down to watch the third phase of the mass start event, category U21/seniors.
On site a number of large banners were spread around the shooting range. Infront of the range a small passageway was reserved for supervisors and coaches. I slipped passed to take a few photos! A team of local volunteers were behind the bar and helping on the race, sharing their know how and their good humour.
The competitors started to warm up. Each one had the opportunity to take a trial shot at the 50 metre target to fine-tune their rifles to the wind conditions and temperature.
At the start the competitors lined up in 4 rows and anxiously awaited the signal, one behind the other in order of bib. Jason Dupertuy from Les Contamines-Montjoie was racing with bib number 76. After a successful year on the competition circuit Jason recently decided to devote himself to his studies: mathematics, physics and mechanics. Despite this descision, the pressure was on!
Silence: 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds, whistle……START!
A raging horde, the group threw themselves onto the track, pushing hard on their poles. The best skiers pulled away from the group and the gap widened rapidly. After 2.5 kilometres of steep and challenging skiing, the front of the pack reached the shooting range. Each competitor set up to shoot in the corridor corresponding to their bib.
The 50 m targets are approximately 4-5 cm in diametre. For the first attempt at the shooting range the skier must lie down on his front with his skis on, aim and fire! One could hear the snapping of bullets as they hit the targets. A penalty loop is compulsory for every target missed!
The pace was fast and the shots successive. After 5 laps and four shooting sessions the competitors crossed the finished line in a last effort to sprint.
From that moment on the day drew smoothly to an end. The bibs were hooked back on the rack, the security nets rolled up, the results printed and the prizes given.
Our thanks go to all the athletes, the volunteers and of course the Ski Club for such fantastic organization!
The new biathlon stadium in Les Contamines was built in 2008. Approved by the IBU for international events, the French Championships took place here in spring 2013. A great success, this event attracted large crowds of spectators. The local Ski Club regularly organizes competitions on the national circuit. Such events involve alot of hard work and our many volunteers greatly contribute to their success.