IBU Cup Races Show Strength of U.S. Program
by Bill Kellick
New Gloucester, Maine: U.S. biathletes made their presence felt over the first two weekends of racing on the 2021-22 IBU Cup circuit with two top-15 finishes and four athletes qualifying for the men’s mass start in Sjusjoen, Norway.
The IBU Cup season kicked off on Thanksgiving Day in Idre, Sweden, with two days of sprint races followed by a day of pursuit competition. Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, Wash./Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Chloe Levins (Rutland, Vt./USBA) qualified for the women’s pursuit, while Vincent Bonacci (Salt Lake City, Utah/Team Crosscut & USBA) earned a start in the men’s pursuit.
The team really found its stride the following weekend in Sjusjoen with the schedule consisting of a super sprint, sprint and mass start.
Vasek Cervenka (Grand Rapids, Minn./National Guard Biathlon & USBA) placed ninth in the men’s super sprint final, only 25.4 seconds off the pace with just one penalty.
“This was my third super sprint. I had done one in Obertilliach in 2018 and one in Arber, Germany, in 2020,” said Cervenka after the race. “Knowing there are a lot of good skiers in this IBU Cup field I just decided to double down on myself and do what I can on the range. My tactic worked almost perfectly with 19 of 20 on the range in the final, I was very happy with that.”
Two days later, Max Durtschi (Ketchum, Idaho/Team Crosscut & USBA) placed 14th in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint with one penalty, 1:06.8 behind the winner.
“Today was a real team effort,” Durtschi said post-race. “Our coaches and staff have done a great job preparing us for the tough conditions on the track and in the range.”
By virtue of their sprint performances, all four U.S. men qualified for the field of 60 for the 15km mass start. Durtschi would lead the U.S. effort in that race with a 28th-place finish, followed by Cervenka in 34th, Bonacci in 44th and Luke Brown (Saint Paul, Minn./Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 55th.
Cervenka also got the call for his first-ever IBU World Cup start in Oestersund, Sweden, racing the men’s individual on Nov. 27 and men’s sprint on Nov. 28.
“The start of this season has been pretty crazy with a lot of last-minute traveling but I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve been gaining,” added Cervenka. “It’s been very eye opening to see how high of a level the World Cup is at. I know I have a whole lot more work to do to get competitive on that playing field, but it’s also been very motivational to see that it’s attainable.”
The IBU Cup athletes are headed back to the U.S. to compete at the IBU Cup 4/5 team trials in Craftsbury, Vt., Dec. 15-18. IBU Cup 4 in Brezno-Osrblie, Slovakia, Jan. 8-9 will be combined with a time trial as the final qualification events for Olympic Team selection.
(Photo: Vaclav Cervenka racing in Östersund, SWE credit Nordic Focus)