On a picturesque Friday in the Slovenian Alps, the race for the World Cup giant slalom crystal globe got really, really interesting.
For the fourth GS in a row, Frenchman Alexis Pinturalut managed to hold off a surging Marcel Hircher, taking the win in the first of two GS races in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, with a total time of 1:52.18 seconds. A pair of Austrians followed Pinturault, with Philipp Schoerghofer in second, 0.47 seconds back, and Hirscher claiming third, 0.69 seconds off of the pace.
On a day that saw the start lowered due to upwards of 30 centimeters of fresh snowfall which prevented the organizers from being able to prepare the upper portion of the course in a satisfactory way, Pinturault set the pace in the first run. The Frenchman was sitting a comfortable 0.35 seconds clear of Schoerghofer in second and 0.82 seconds ahead of Hirscher, who sat in seventh. Knowing that the fate of the GS crystal globe was likely in the balance, Hirscher skied all out in the second run, setting the fastest run time in the process and jumping up to third, taking yet another podium. His compatriot Schoerghofer managed to slide in front of him, however, just as Pinturault entered the starting gate.
Holding nothing back, Pinturault skied the only way he knows how and handily took his 15th career World Cup victory. Letting out a yell after crossing the finish with yet another green light, the Frenchman now has less than 100 points to make up on Hirscher in the GS standings.
“I feel great, for sure,” Pinturault said in the finish. “You know, after a victory, it is always something special. It is a special moment. It was a great, tough race today. What about tomorrow? We’ll see, because it’s going to be not the same as today. Expecting rain, so that’s going to be really hard, mentally.”
“My thinking is that when I finish on top of the podium, it’s always unbelievable,” he added. “It’s always a special moment. At least I am skiing and not flying. Maybe that’s what you see, but it’s not the case, you know? I will try and push really hard and that was quite a tough race today.”
Friday marked the first podium appearance since December of 2011 for Schoerghofer, who was clearly excited to make it back to the top of the rankings once again after several years of lackluster results.
“The feeling is amazing for me,” Schoerghofer said. “It’s been such a long time, it was four years ago since I last stood on the podium so it’s very, very good for me. I skied very well, but the big mistake in the second run was huge. But after that I risked it all and at the finish line, the green light is there and I was very surprised and very happy about my second place.”
“To do this again, it was a tough time for me,” he added of his struggles in recent years. “The last four years was not easy with the skis and with the regulations from the FIS. I had big problems with that, but now, I skied good with them, so it’s good to be back on the podium.”
Although Hirscher’s lead in the GS standings is shrinking, he did manage to put a few more points between himself and his closest rival in the overall standings, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, who finished just behind Hirscher in fourth. When Hirscher was asked if he ever felt he could have taken the win after his second run, he did not hesitate with his answer.
“Never. No,” Hirscher asserted. “I mean, everything in possible, but Philipp, Felix (Neureuther), and Alexis, if they are not skiing out or making huge mistakes, there’s no opportunity to pick up eight tenths of a second on this short and pretty easy race hill here. After the first run, we were searching and some of the coaches and some of the experts were in-between bad skiing and a bad start number. As you can see with the second run, my skiing is not too bad at the moment. It is another 60 points for the overall, and another 60 points for the GS ranking.”
“If Alexis is skiing as he showed us in the last couple of races, he will win the GS globe,” he added. “That is for sure because at the moment, he is amazing.”
For the Americans, it was a step in the right direction as David Chodounsky and Tommy Ford both managed to crack the top-30, finishing 26th and 27th, respectively.
“First run, obviously I was happy,” explained Chodounsky. “I started in the back (bib 58) and felt like I skied well and aggressive and got into the second run. And then, I completely over-skied the second run. It skied so much easier than I thought it would. I’m learning in GS still. I’m happy with today, got points, and I’m going to learn from that and keep my GS going.”
Another noteworthy performance was that of Frenchman Cyprien Richard, who started the day wearing bib 40 and finished an impressive ninth. No doubt a step in the right direction for the once first-seed regular.
Another GS is scheduled for Saturday and reports indicate that the upper portion of the slope will be in good enough shape for a race from the top with action getting underway at 9:30 a.m. CET.
By Hank McKee
1. Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
2. Schoerghofer, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
3. Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
5. Faivre, Head/Head/Head
6. Feller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7. Haugen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
8. Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
9. Richard, Head/Head/Head
10. Murisier, Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
10. Luitz, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Kranjska Gora, Solvenia, March 4, 2016. … This is a make-up race for the GS canceled at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany Jan. 31 by rain and bad weather. … It is the 36th of 45 races on the men’s schedule and the ninth of 11 scheduled GSs. … It is the 12th rescheduled or canceled race this season. … It is the first event of the 55th Pokal Vitranc Cup and the 84th World Cup race hosted at Kranjska Gora. … Alexis Pinturault is the defending GS winner. … Americans have won nine GSs at Kranjska Gora with Ted Ligety accounting for six of those victories.
- It is the 15th career World Cup win for Alexis Pinturault. … His sixth this season, fourth this season in GS. … It is his second career win at Kranjska Gora. … The winning margin is 0.47. .. Podium skiers are within the same second. … Top eight within two seconds.
- It is the fifth career World Cup podium for Philipp Schoerghofer, all in GS. … His first podium of the season.
- It is the 88th career World Cup podium for Marcel Hirscher, his 16th of the season and his ninth at Kranjska Gora in 13 races completed.
- It is the fourth time in his career and third time this season David Chodounsky has scored in a World Cup GS. It is the 18th World Cup scoring finish for Tommy Ford, the fourth time this season.
- Marcel Hirscher leads the World Cup overall standings 1425-1132 over Henrik Kristoffersen (fourth in race). … Pinturault climbs to third overall with 960pts.
- With two races remaining, Hirscher leads the GS standings 621-530 over Pinturault. Kristoffersen is third with 401pts and cannot win the GS title.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 4758-4575 over France. … Norway is third with 4008pts. … The U.S. is seventh at 1745 and Canada 10th at 524pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|7||8||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||55.40||58.37||1:53.77||+1.59||13.89|
|24||31||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||56.51||58.66||1:55.17||+2.99||26.12|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|72||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|47||422112||PATRICKSSON Axel William||1992||NOR|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|24||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA|
|Did not finish 1st run|