Are Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz now the favorites for the general classification of the World Cup?

They are not satisfied. Between them, Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz-Bouchet won or participated in no less than 8 (including two municipalities in mixed and women’s relay) of the 13 French medals at the World Championships, a new record for French biathlon, in Nove Mesto. But this 2023-2024 season is not over and the two champions are chasing the icing on an already voluminous cake: the general classification of the World Cup. Just to confirm that they were not just the best over ten days, but over an entire winter.

In Oslo Holmenkollen on Thursday, the individual 15 km will open a final sprint of seven races spread over three World Cup rounds in Norway, but also in the United States (Soldier Hollow) and Canada (Canmore). From this perspective, the Blues are well placed since they are part of a group of four biathletes visibly destined to fight for the big crystal globe. Between the Norwegian Ingrid Tandrevold, currently wearing the yellow bib as overall leader, and Simon (4th), there is only 57 points difference.

1.Ingrid Tandrevold719
2.Justine Braisaz-Bouchet689
3.Lisa Vittozzi671
4.Julia Simon662
5.Elvira Oeberg602
6.Lou Jeanmonnot590

Tandrevold has the reins, the Blues have the dynamics

Certainly, on paper, Tandrevold has the accounting advantage but she must also manage the pressure attached to this provisional first place. Above all, a victory yielding 90 points, his lead should be put into perspective. For example, it would be enough for Braisaz-Bouchet to win this individual 15 km and for the Norwegian to do no better than third for the roles to be immediately reversed in view of the mass start on Saturday. You will have understood, his yellow bib is hanging by a thread, especially if we look at recent dynamics.

Simon, on his duel with Braisaz-Bouchet: “I know I can count on my shots”

When Tandrevold went through the Worlds like a ghost, unable to get on the podium in an individual race, Julia Simon confirmed her rise to power, leaving her mark on the event with four titles and a bronze medal. Justine Braisaz almost did as well with three crowns, silver and bronze. The first confirmed her status as the best shooter and her psychological ascendancy in the field, the second that of the best skier and her physical superiority.

By carrying out this raid, the two French women have already succeeded in their season, accumulated confidence and established a breathtaking rivalry. To the pursuit masterfully led by Simon in Nove Mesto, Braisaz-Bouchet responded with an almost perfect mass start, each taking the other to their favorite terrain in turn. Between them, it is difficult to draw a hierarchy in the seven races to come.

Vittozzi has a good head as an ambitious referee

If we rely on the dynamics of the season, Braisaz-Bouchet started the strongest before plateauing in January and seeing Simon come back on his heels. The start of the Worlds seemed to confirm the trend, until the first one revolted by ending up like a cannonball on the mass start. Physically, Braisaz-Bouchet seems to have the advantage. “I need rest. This is the first time I’m going to draw so far from my mental resources, now I’m exhausted“, Simon admitted at the end of the competition.


A historic Sunday: Relive the perfect Braisaz-Bouchet race

But the prospect of winning the general classification of the World Cup for a second consecutive time, especially after a very mentally complicated start to the season, could well overmotivate her. The fact remains that this duel, as enticing as it may be in theory, is not (yet?) one on a mathematical level. Because in addition to Tandrevold, Lisa Vittozzi prowls, like a perfectly hidden outsider only to emerge at the opportune moment.

We must not forget that the Italian went for the only individual race that escaped the Simon-Braisaz duo in Nove Mesto on… the individual. This is precisely the format that opens this final fight in Oslo Holmenkollen. Potentially too penalizing in shooting for Braisaz-Bouchet (one minute penalty per fault), without confrontation on the shooting range for Simon, it suits the Italian perfectly who also won two silver medals in pursuit and mass start at the Worlds. The French women have been warned: they will have to be the most consistent over these last 7 races before shooting themselves in the way.

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