OK Biathletes at the Toblach-Cortina: Montello and Sanfilippo centre the point

Day to be framed in Toblach, with French attacking. Former biathletes “converted” to cross-country skiing Montello and Sanfilippo win. All foreign the combined: Bing (GER) and Heiskanen (FIN) win

Another wonderful day in Toblach, where today took place the second and final race of one of the most eagerly awaited and most traditional granfondo races not only in Italy. The Granfondo Toblach-Cortina is part of the “Challengers” category of Ski Classics, with almost 700 athletes that today have kicked off from the Air Force Base in Toblach for the 35 km in free technique, and to stand out were the names of Federica Sanfilippo for the women and of Giuseppe Montello for men. Two former biathletes literally “surrounded” by the French rivals.

The locality in Pustertal practically had to organise a “Toblach…Toblach”, seen the problems that came up in Cortina because of the high temperatures that made impossible the preparation of the traditional second part of the course. Great work, therefore, on the part of the organizing committee, which deserves credit for not giving up, as is happening at major international events.

Today there was a big selection from the first kilometres. At the passage on the “monumental” overpass of the Nordic Arena, in fact, a group of 20 athletes already had several metres of advantage on the first chasers. Giuseppe Montello and the French Gerard Agnellet attempted a breakaway, outdistancing the other transalpine Victor Lovera by about thirty seconds. The two then tackled the descent in pair, which they said was crucial. Once they returned at the Nordic Arena where the finish line was placed, the Italian was able to anticipate the sprint time, as per manual in Toblach, concluding the race in 1h21’54”. The Frenchman then made a comeback in the very last metres, ending up just a few centimetres away from victory. A great success for Montello, a former biathlete, who managed to put his tactic into practice: to make as much selection as possible. However, Lovera managed to contain Thomas Bing’s comeback, placing 3rd at 2’14”, with the German 4th at +2’17”. No other Italians in the top nine, a sign of a high level foreign presence; 10th was Paolo Fanton.

In the women’s race another sprint won by an Italian, also a former biathlete! The goal of the athlete from Val Ridanna Federica Sanfilippo was the same as Montello, to make a selection; however, when it was no longer possible to make more, she pulled the oars in the boat and prepared for the sprint. Sanfilippo was also very adept at fine-tuning the ‘Toblach tactic’, attacking on the penultimate climb, leading the final descent and crossing the finish line in first position (1h32’29″3) with a 4/10 lead over Felicie Chappaz (FRA) and 5/10 lead over Coralie Bentz (FRA).

A day tinted with the Italian colours then in Toblach, with two Italian win but also 4 French on the podium. Worth mentioning is that Chappaz, second today, is the little sister of Jules that precisely this season obtained his first podium in the World Cup, after having placed a heavy bronze medal around his neck at the World Championships in Planica 2023.

It was also expected the combined ranking, with the sum of the times of both days, yesterday in classic and today in skating, in which Thomas Bing (GER) dominated with a total time of 3h9’54”6 over Alfred Buskqvist (SWE) and Johannes Ekloef (SWE). Among women, Heli Heiskanen (FIN) won with a total time of 3h38’25” over Franziska Mueller (GER) and Nicole Donzallaz (SUI).

“It was certainly a success, given the more than 1500 athletes at the start over the two days. The traditional course, due to the high temperatures, would not have been up to such a large number of competitors, but we are confident that in the future we will be able to resolve this issue by tackling it differently. The main objective is to be able to offer these athletes what they deserve. This year absolutely must serve as a lesson for the future,” said Igor Gombac, vice-president of the organising committee and coordinator of the Cortina area.

Riege at the photo finish, cross country skiers and Heiskanen taking of at the airport

Men’s race in a sprint: Riege, same time as Nygaard, Ferrari 3rd. Among women 2nd place for Stefania Corradini in the Heiskanen’s race

A sunny Toblach, in South Tyrol, hosted the first day of races of the historic 47th Granfondo Toblach-Cortina. Due to unfavourable weather conditions, they had to turn around at the last minute by setting the race finish line in Toblach, thus not descending to Cortina, with the Nordic Arena that saw almost 1000 cross-country skiers cut the finish line. An authentic mix between professionals and amateurs. The “Challengers” events of the Ski Classics circuit, in fact, let everyone experience the dream of competing with the best long distance skiers, regardless of age or category.

Today the race on the distance of 42 km in classic technique was scheduled, while tomorrow it will be the time for the 35 km race in skating. The Toblach-Cortina took off, in the literal sense of the word given the start at the airport, from Toblach as per tradition. Among men, the group remained compact during the whole competition despite the initial attempt of escape of Heinrick Hau (GER). The top group at around 15 kilometres caught the latter, and from there no one was able to make the difference anymore, also due to the speed of the course, brilliantly prepared by the organizing committee led by Herbert Santer. It then continued in a group until the arrival at the Nordic Arena, where the two Norwegians Andreas Nygaard and Amund Riege went wild, approaching the sprint at full speed. The photo finish between the two ruled in favour of Riege (Team Ramudden) by a nose, with the compatriot Nygaard (Team Ragde Charge) resulting second. “I was in front before the last climb, I knew that approaching the straightaway in front was fundamental since it is quite short here. So I tried to select, the last ascent was fundamental as always here in Toblach. You have to come down fast and keep the leadership until the last curve and then push with all you got in the straightaway. I heard I arrived before Andreas in the photo finish and I am very happy!” these are the words of the winner. Third is a brilliant Francesco Ferrari. The Italian of the Internorm Alpenplus Trentino Team put together a first-class last kilometre, holding up Riege’s shock on the final climb and keeping the throttle wide open all the way to the finish. After the race, he said he was very satisfied to have arrived just few meters away from such a prestigious win. A positive 4th place also for the other Italian who stayed strong in the top group Lorenzo Busin, teammate of Ferrari. Only 6th place for one of today’s favourites, Thomas Bing (GER) who usually pays the price in sprint finishes.

Regarding the women’s race, Italy was once again a big protagonist. The success went to Heli Heiskanen (FIN) of the Internorm Alpenplus Trentino Team, who literally “killed” competition even before reaching the halfway point. At the tracking of the 22nd kilometre, the Finnish had, in fact, an advantage of 1’54” on the Italian Stefania Corradini. The latter keep up well until the end, cutting the finish line with the same gap she had at the halfway point and with around 1’30” on the third placed, Oda Nerdrum (NOR). “Today it was too fun! The atmospheric conditions and the course were perfect. Here it is always a pleasure to compete, not only because I won, but the conditions are always perfect.” Declared at the finish line the winner Heiskanen. Eighth place for the second Italian, Anna Giordan. At the end of the competition, under a sun that almost took away the regret for the cancellation of the ‘Veneto’ part of the race, the prize-giving ceremony took place. The athletes remarked how a great job had been done in putting on an event that just could not be skipped, given its history.