Spring weather and a watered track made for trickier than usual conditions on the classic Gran Risa giant slalom hill in Alta Badia, Italy, the final men’s World Cup event before the holiday break. Even race winner Marcel Hirscher had a touch of difficulty, sliding onto his hip but making up for it with an aggressive line.
“If only you knew how bad my skiing and my feeling were yesterday, I doubt anyone would ever believe I could win today,” said Hirscher. “Somehow I still showed some really good skiing in the end, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Ted Ligety, the reigning World Cup and world champion in GS had what can only be called an “off day” doing battle with the steep course instead of controlling it as fans have grown accustomed to seeing. Not that he had a bad result, Ligety still notched third behind Hirscher and Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, but he was seemingly behind from the moment he first touched the course.
“It was really, really important for me to win when Ted is competitive. I have done everything I possibly could to get closer to Ted, and it’s tough to get faster and faster but it was worth it,” Hirscher explained.
The win was Hirscher’s third of the season, and critically, his second in GS, moving him past Ligety into the lead of the World Cup GS standings. He also closed the gap with Aksel Lund Svindal in the race for the overall title.
“I was not very happy with my setup in Beaver Creek and Val d’Isere, and I finished just off the podium,” noted Pinturault. “We changed a few things and today it worked so I hope to continue on this path.”
The course, normally a glaze of ice, featured grippy snow this season, at least until it was skied off revealing the ice beneath. It varied dramatically along the course, even side to side.
The brightest U.S. story of the day came from Tim Jitloff. He rode a first run start from 31st position to a tie with German star Felix Neureuther for fifth place, matching his personal best from 2009. His second run effort was particularly good on a course that few seemed able to conquer.
“After the last two races I was really tired, from training for four weeks… in Colorado, and I just wasn’t fresh. I said after Val d’Isere I’m going to fly home, spend some time at home and get freshened up and see my girl,” said Jitloff. “Then I came in here at the end of the week, trained one day, and came right into the race fresh. Obviously when I’m fresh I ski well.”
Jitloff had posted consistent past results in Alta Badia, finishing 17th and 18th in 2012 and 2011, but he was looking for something more.
“Today was more about honestly just stepping up and saying, ok, let’s do this twice in a row without any big mistakes. And when I do that I’m just as capable of being as fast the rest of them. So, that was proven and I’m really psyched,” he said.
The course set by Hirscher’s Austrian coach Michael Pircher was deceptively difficult as it caught many top skiers, tagging them with costly errors that swallowed as much as two seconds. But there were other notable results. The Germans, who have never recorded a win at Alta Badia, finished with Neureuther tied for fifth, Fritz Dopfer in fourth for the second straight year and Stefan Luitz in the top 10.
Norwegian youngster Henrik Kristoffersen, having moved from bib 49 to ninth a week ago in the Val d’Isere GS, followed up by taking bib 40 to the 12th finish at Alta Badia. Denver resident Leif Kristian Haugen, also representing Norway, was ninth, his second stop in the top 10 of a World Cup GS this season.
Mistakes, though, were costly. Ivica Kostelic went down and slid into and knocked down a course marshal. With a single mistake, Luca DeAliprandini dropped from having the lead to seventh, eventually finishing 26th. Carlo Janka faced a similar situation, losing two seconds with one error.
“This is a special win,” said Hirscher. “Very many people have worked for this. The basic training days for the development of the setup has paid off. Now we are back where we belong.”
He said he was certain his second run error had cost enough time that Ligety would have passed, but he just made a correction, “and kept the pace as high as possible.”
Ligety suggested he had not attacked enough. “I had a couple of little mistakes and you pay for them on this type of snow.”
See more pictures from today’s race in our gallery.
Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Alta Badia, Italy, Dec. 22, 2013
Equipment – Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Pinturault, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3 Ligety, Head/Head/Head
4 Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/
5 Jitloff, Fisher/Fischer/Fischer
6 Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
7 Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8 Luitz, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Haugen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
10 Missillier, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
Men’s World Cup Gant Slalom, Alta Badia, Italy, Dec. 22, 2013. … It is the 12th of 34 races on the men’s schedule… the fourth of eight scheduled GS’s. … It is the 30th World Cup race hosted at Alta Badia… the 25th GS, 23rd for men.
It is the 21st career World Cup win for Marcel Hirscher and his 50th World Cup podium… at 24 years he is the fifth youngest to reach this milestone behind Ingemar Stenmark, Gustavo Thoeni, Pirmin Zubriggen and Marc Girardelli. … He also won the slalom at Alta Badia in 2011. … It marks his third win of the season and second in GS.
It is the 16th career podium for Alexis Pinturault… the eighth in GS. And second of the season, both in GS. … It is his first podium at Alta Badia.
It is the 40th career World Cup podium for Ted Ligety… the 33rd in GS and his fifth at Alta Badia, (third in GS).
Tim Jitloff matches his career best in fifth, first reached at Sestriere Feb. 21, 2009. … It is his second score of the season.
Aksel Lund Svindal (13th in race) maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 530-435 over Hirscher. … Ligety is third with 329pts. … Bode Miller (DNQ) is sixth with 230pts and Erik Guay leads the Canadians overall in ninth with 201pts.
Hirscher leads the GS standings 320-260 over Ligety. … Pinturault is third with 255pts. … Miller is ninth with 92pts. … Trevor Philp (DNQ in race) is top Canadian in 45th with 5pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||FIS Points|
|9||20||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:19.80||1:19.79||2:39.59||12.10|
|13||1||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:19.80||1:20.11||2:39.91||13.91|
|26||37||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA||1:21.01||1:20.50||2:41.51||22.95|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|68||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|52||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR|
|46||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|