- In January 2021, Oberhof in Thuringia was once again the location for the Biathlon World Cup – and Mercedes-Benz trucks were in active service
- Approximately 30,000 cubic metres of snow were moved to create ideal conditions on the pistes and to ensure that the World Cup ran smoothly
- A total of eight Mercedes-Benz Arocs tipper trucks, provided by the Branch Information Centre (BIC) and Mercedes-Benz CharterWay, worked non-stop
Stuttgart/Oberhof – It's essential, but too much is too much: not only COVID-19, but also unfavourable snow conditions created challenges for the Biathlon World Cup in Oberhof. Mercedes-Benz had sent a truck fleet of eight Mercedes-Benz Arocs into the front line to ensure that the world biathlon would find ideally prepared ski runs and to ensure the smooth running of the World Cup. The task was to shift about 30,000 cubic metres of snow.
Thousands of truckloads of snow
About 300 biathletes from 31 countries were to take part in the Biathlon World Cup. At the beginning of January, the required snow hadn't arrived. To be prepared for such situations, in 2013 a storage pond was created for making artificial snow. The snow is stored in the indoor ski run and in a depot which was built in 2015. With about 1500 truckloads from there, the team set about creating a ski run in accordance with the rules of the International Biathlon Union (IBU).
At the end of 2020, work began on the ten-kilometre Nordic ski trail, which had to be six metres wide at the end and have a snow covering at least 60 centimetres thick. For ten days, the Mercedes-Benz Arocs tippers drove the white snow to the site. In the middle of January, the snow shortage was reversed: it snowed so much that the trucks had to take almost a hundred truckloads of fresh snow out of the arena, the TV area and also out of the areas for the athletes and their support staff. Sometimes the driving could only be done using snow chains.
"Amongst other things, we had to reverse up to two kilometres to get to the loading place – you can bet that MirrorCam was a true blessing! Besides the special manoeuvring vision when reversing, the system also gave us a better all-round view. In particular for the slanting view forwards – past the A-pillars – you have a much wider field of vision for the driver. That really helped us on narrow forest paths. With the difficult light and visibility, the displays always provided a noticeably brighter, high-contrast view of the surroundings. The cameras always stayed clean, even in the dirtiest of conditions, so with MirrorCam driving was that much safer," says Christian Schleicher from Daimler Truck Sales Management South (Bavaria and Württemberg). As a volunteer World Cup helper, he drove one of the eight Arocs tippers.
Four trucks of the latest generation came from the fleet of the Branch Information Centre (BIC) at the Wörth plant, equipped with MirrorCam and Multimedia Cockpit. The other four were from the hire fleet of Mercedes-Benz CharterWay. The vehicle configurations ranged from 6×4 three-axle trucks to 8×8 four-axle vehicles. The vehicles were ideally prepared for the cramped, slippery, steep terrain thanks to off-road equipment with high performance engine brake, differential locks and turbo retarder clutch.
"The 2021 biathlon in Oberhof was very special – and not just because of the pandemic. Anyway, our Arocs showed that they can cope with all difficulties even in those extreme situations, and they mastered all the tasks splendidly," said Schleicher after the event.
Regular COVID-19 tests
Of course, the two World Cup weekends in Oberhof were marked by the corona pandemic. Thanks to a highly sophisticated hygiene concept, the races could be held as planned. The hygiene measures included repeated COVID-19 tests, a world cup without any spectators on location and – after numerous tourists and curious onlookers had set off for the Thuringian Forest in spite of numerous warnings – a contest that was sealed off by the police.
For decades, Oberhof has been one of the top locations for the International Biathlon contests. The different slopes and trails are particularly challenging and can be combined to fit the length of the races. The "Wolfsschlucht" ("Wolf Gorge"), named after biathlete Karl-Heinz Wolf and which is now no longer in use, was particularly prominent for many years. On the downhill slopes the skiers could reach speeds of over 80 kilometres per hour. The so-called Birxsteig is particularly strenuous. 500 metres long, it is the longest ascent of the whole route, and with a height difference of 65 metres it has some of the steepest sections. At regular world cups, the Birxsteig is lined with spectators who shout encouragement to the athletes.