A look of disbelief swept across Henrik Kristoffersen’s face as Marcel Hirscher came through the finish with the green light in the World Cup giant slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland. Hirscher–the Austrian powerhouse with six World Cup overall titles to his name–was flung from left to right on the final pitch. He was running a late line and nearly came to a stop on the final breakover. It was not a pretty run and fans could tell it was a fight when the Austrian collapsed in a the finish area–a surprising moment considering Hirscher hardly ever looks tired.
Despite that, Hirscher found himself on top of the podium, 0.17 seconds ahead of the Norwegian who has been chasing him all season. Kristoffersen laid his head down on the finish area fencing and then shrugged at the TV camera as if to say, “What else can I do?”
The Norwegian has bested Hirscher twice this season. In Levi, Finland, Hirscher finished 17th in his first race back after his fracturing his ankle while Kristoffersen landed in second place. Then in Alta Badia, Italy, the Norwegian skied to second place in the parallel GS while Hirscher took third. Still, Hirscher is one of Kristoffersen’s biggest obstacles to getting a win this season. The Austrian has won 60 percent of the races he’s started in this season. If you look at just slalom and giant slalom races, that number goes up to 75 percent. Hirscher, much like Mikaela Shiffrin on the ladies’ tour, is a frustrating lesson in consistency for the rest of the field.
Kristoffersen often shows that frustration clearly on his face. The Attacking Viking does not wear a poker face like most athletes do when they are kicked out of the leader box. While skiers usually clap, shrug and wear a smile, the Norwegian was been known to throw what appears to be a temper tantrum.
“I think as an athlete, you’re allowed to be a little bit angry, and then you let it go,” he explained after taking third in Zagreb, Croatia. “So, I think I was angry for like 10 minutes and then it was okay. But I think that’s what makes me me. It’s always been like that.”
He continued to say that athletes should not be afraid to show their disappointment, and expressed that his frustration has nothing to do with a lack of respect for Hirscher. His disappointment stems from his own frustrations with his skiing. All that aside, the Norwegian is happy with his three second-place finishes in giant slalom this season.
“I was disappointed with GS season last year, so we had to change something,” he explained. “Skied a lot of GS this year. Changed the technique up a little bit and worked hard, so that’s why the first three races before Zagreb felt a little not so good in slalom. Zagreb felt good with only some mistakes, but GS was so much better than last year.”
Kristoffersen continued to say that in Adelboden he gave it everything he could and felt pleased by the outcome.
“It was a good one, for sure,” Kristoffersen shared in the press conference. “It was a real fight. The GS is so much better than last year and that’s why I’m pretty happy at the moment with only being 17 hundredths behind, but Marcel made a huge mistake at the bottom. I made a mistake. I think we fought with everything we had. At the moment, he’s just better.”
For Hirscher, the win puts him one step closer to catching Hermann Maier, who is ranked second on the all-time wins list amongst men. Hirscher has claimed 51 victories–three shy of Maier’s record and 35 away from Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 wins. Adelboden in particular has always been good to the Austrian. He earned 13 podium finishes in 18 World Cup starts. More than 10 percent of Hirscher’s World Cup victories were earned at the Swiss venue.
“Every stage is very important on our tour, but Adelboden has this special terrain, has this history, has these amazing fans,” he said. “I mean the Swiss people are very fair, and it’s nearly no difference between the first runner and the 70th athlete in the first run, so I think this is something very special and this is not everywhere the same.”
Frenchman Alexis Pinturault rounded out the podium in third place. Hirscher and Pinturault go back and forth on the GS circuit. In the last nine World Cup giant slalom races, either Hirscher or Pinturault as topped the podium. Last year at Adelboden, Pinturault won by 0.04 seconds over the Austrian, but this year, he missed the win by 0.21 seconds. The French skier was still quite happy with his race, particularly considering the second run course set.
“It was really turny, so it was really difficult to know if you were fast or not, if you were making speed or not, and it’s only when you cross the line that you know which kind of run you made,” Pinturault said. “So, I get a good sensation, but it was also really difficult to, as I said, know if you were fast.”
The American contingent was no exception when it came to the challenges of the second run course. While Ted Ligety, Tommy Ford, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle all qualified for a second run, only Cochran-Siegle managed to make it down the Chuenisbaergli track. The Vermont native finished in 21st and earned his first World Cup GS points of the season.
Racing action continues on Sunday with a men’s slalom at Adelboden.
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head / Head / Head
4. Luca De Aliprandini (ITA) – Salomon / Salomon / Salomon
5. Manuel Feller (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5. Zan Kranjec (SLO) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
7. Manfred Moelgg (ITA) – Fischer / Fischer /Fischer
8. Ricardo Tonetti (ITA) – Voelkl / Marker / Dalbello
9. Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen (NOR) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
10. Justin Murisier (FRA) – Voelkl / Marker / Dalbello
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|4||9||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA||1:11.38||1:18.39||2:29.77||+1.14||7.52||50|
|10||6||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:11.18||1:19.04||2:30.22||+1.59||10.48||26|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|35||422112||PATRICKSSON Axel William||1992||NOR||1:16.20||0|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|70||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL||0|