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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.