The annual Criterium of the First Snow at Val d’Isere got underway with more first snow than anticipated as five meters of the stuff had fallen in the French resort in the days leading up to Saturday’s (Dec. 8) World Cup slalom. With the start delayed to allow as much time for course prep as possible, the second run was held under the lights on the Face de Bellevarde. That all created perfect conditions for an upset and home standing Alexis Pinturault was more than happy to oblige.
“Yes, there was a lot of snow, but the slope was really great,” the rising French star said. “This race was amazing to me.”
And to many others, no doubt. Though the track had been injected with water, twice, there was no hope of creating a scar proof surface and ruts played a significant role. All but one of the first five finishers in the first run had also started among the first five. Only wily old veteran (34 years and 11 months) Manfred Pranger broke into that quintet from 11th.
In the second run, with the snow again falling, it was quickly clear it would continue to be difficult to make any dramatic move. Austria, with seven men qualified to take two runs, looked likely to have a big day, especially with Pranger sitting second and last season’s brightest star Marcel Hircher in the lead.
But early runners proved difficult to dislodge. It took a pair of Swedes to first clear a path to the top of the leader board. Andre Myhrer and Jens Byggmark, as much as nine tenths back at the first interval timer, moved to the lead as the 12th and 13th finishers of the first run. Few, however, could follow their lead.
With the heavily partisan crowd cheering, Pinturault – the 25th starter of the second floodlit run – put down a near perfect run and an enormous 1.06 second advantage over the field to that point. Still, he had given up .73 to Hirscher in the first run, so while optomistic he knew it was far from a lock on a win.
The next skier out, Christian Deville could not catch him nor the Swedes and dropped off the ladder. Stefano Gross straddled the second gate on the course, skied to the side and pounded his poles into the drifts.
Felix Neureuther held a .46 advantage at the start, but was already beind Pinturault by the first interval. He landed second with two more to race and the Frenchman celebrated a sure podium finish, his second in slalom.
Pranger, with a half second edge at the wand, battled a cross wind but held the lead through the first two intervals, then dropped back. Hirscher, still searching for his first win of the season, kicked out of the start and quickly an into trouble. He got late, was pushed into the back seat and fought to stay on course. Though he regained his form and was scintillating on the last third of the course, the damage had been done. Pinturault got the win with Neureuther second and Hirscher third.
American Ted Ligety – he had tweeted the conditions were like skiing “in a bucket of tennis balls,” posted 12th on the day, one placing better than he recorded in the Levi slalom opener in November and Dave Chodounsky, the final first run qualifier, took advantage of the clean second run course to climb to 15th.
“The guys took advantage of a good opportunity (in the second run),” said US coach Sasha Rearick.
“Ted has solidified himself in the top 15 and that’s a good step in the right direction for him to rack up some more points in the future. David has qualified in both World Cup slaloms this season and is in a good place after coming back from an injury. He’s skiing really well. … consistent.”
by Hank McKee
Men’s World Cup slalom, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 8, 2012
1 Pinturault, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
2 Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
3 Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4 Myhrer, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
5 Byggmark, Voelkl/Fischer/Marker
6 Pranger, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
7 Deville, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
8 Matt, Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
9 Hoerl, Fischer/Lange/Tyrolia
10 Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
Men’s World Cup slalom, Val d’Isere, France. … start delayed and slalom and GS switched due to heavy snowfall. … It is the 17th of 74 races on the 2012-13 World Cup schedule. … the eighth of 36 men’s races and the second of 11 scheduled men’s slaloms (including two city event parallel races). … It is the 157th Cup race held at least in part at Val d’Isere. … just the tenth slalom. … It is the first of four Cup races at the site set for this season, two for men and two for women.
It is the second career World Cup win for Alexis Pinturault, the other coming in a parallel city event at Moscow last season. … It is his second slalom podium placing. … He is a two time World Junior champion in GS. … It is his third score of the season. … He also placed fifth in GS at Beaver Creek
It is the 15th Cup podium result for Felix Neureuther. … all but two coming in slalom. … It is his first podium of the season and the first tallied at Val d’Isere.
It is the 31st career World Cup podium for Marcel Hirscher. … his 15th in slalom. … It is his fourth podium of the season in four completed races. … It is his fifth Cup podium scored at Val d’Isere.
Ted Ligety matches his 26th best career Cup slalom result. … It is his best slalom score at Val d’Isere. … and his best slalom placing of the season by one place. … It is the fourth career World Cup scoring result for David Chodounsky and his first of the season.
Aksel Lund Svindal (did not race) holds the lead of the World Cup overall standings 400-342 over Ligety. … Hirscher is third with 280pts. … Erik Guay (did not race) is the top Canadian overall in 19th with 104pts. … Andre Myhrer (fourth in race) leads the Slalom standings 150-140 over Hirscher. … Neureuther takes third with 116pts. … Ligety is top American in 12th place with 108pts. … Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 1425-1003 over Italy. … France is third with 691pts. … The US is fifth with 532pts and Canada eighth with 235pts.
Val d’Isère (FRA)
FIS World Cup
Dec. 8, 2012
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||FIS Points|
|27||44||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA||50.55||48.50||1:39.05||16.05|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|73||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|39||193967||MUFFAT JEANDET Victor||1989||FRA|
|28||421400||MYHRE Lars Elton||1984||NOR|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|35||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR|