On Saturday in Chamonix, France, 22-year-old Clement Noel earned his first win in front of a home crowd. The Frenchman has been on a hot streak since winning the classic races in Wengen and Kitzbuehel in 2019. In addition to today’s win, Noel has won in Zagreb and Wengen and podiumed in Levi, Madonna di Campiglio, and Kitzbuehel, so far in the 2019/20 season.
“There are so many French people that came to support the French team, so that was a special moment when I crossed the finish line with the green light and I could see all these people cheering for me,” reminisced Noel. “It’s for sure one of my most important memories of a victory.”
Noel’s continued success has put him just two points behind Henrik Kristoffersen in the running for the slalom crystal globe, a potential achievement that has never quite been a goal for Noel. At such a young age, Noel is still humble, hung up on the perfection of his turns and his execution on race day rather than the potential of overall slalom glory.
“I don’t really count points but I’m pretty sure I’m second just behind Henrik, but I don’t really care,” said Noel. “I just want to be focused on the next race. My season is good so far and I’m really happy about this skiing so I’m going to try and continue in this way and try not to think too much about the general specifications.”
Noel led a wave of young talent in the Chamonix slalom, followed closely behind by two 23-year-old up and coming talents, Norway’s Timon Haugan, and Austria’s Adrian Pertl. In the absence of Marcel Hirscher, the slalom field has seemingly grown tighter, or maybe the competition has just gotten better. Either way, the myriad of faces and new talent that have stepped onto the slalom podium thus far this season have made slalom one of the more interesting disciplines to follow. For Haugan and Pertl, finishing on the podium for the first time in their careers was completely unexpected yet also a sign that they are heading in the right direction.
“I’m from a small town in Norway, it’s about 7,000 people and I moved there when I was three years old and started skiing and I really loved it,” said Haugen. “I just said when I was young that I wanted to become one of the best in the world one day and today I’m one of the best, at least today. So it’s a dream coming true. There have been big idols like Svindal and Jansrud when I was a really tiny guy, and they’ve given me a lot of motivation and now I have gotten to be on the team with them.”
Prior to Chamonix, Kitzbuehel’s 12th place finish was Haugan’s career-best. Throughout the season, he has gradually made progressive moves, finishing 22nd Schladaming and 23rd Zagreb, all results he denoted as a bit unexpected. On Sunday, he’ll compete in the parallel giant slalom for the first time in his career, and he has low expectations.
“This is still unbelievable,” exclaimed Haugan. “The team we have this year is really strong, and we’ve got some young blood into the team. I think we’ve pushed each other every single training. I’m really happy with my skiing today and how I attacked both runs. I just really committed to what I was doing in training. It was a high tempo course and you have to attack or else you’ll fall behind. Today I kept up.”
Pertl led the Austrian team to their best collective finish of the season, with four athletes in the top 15. As one of the younger guys who has never been on the podium, he didn’t expect to “that guy” particularly in the wake of the backlash the tech team has been receiving from Austrian national team alumni and fans. The best result Pertl had prior to Chamonix was an eighth place in Kitzbuehel.
“It was unexpected. The first run in ninth position was really good for me and after second run I crossed the finish line and I was second and I thought ‘yea, that’s okay, if it’s another top 10, I’ll be super happy,’ explained Pertl. “I don’t know really know what I said because it’s so unbelievable and amazing and last month was crazy with the 8th place in Kitzbuehel and now the podium.”
Hailing from a small town in Austria, he moved to Schladming to make his World Cup dreams a reality a couple of years back. Pertl has been struggling over the past two years, fighting to break into the Europa Cup circuit and perform to the level expected of himself. There, he has a better starting position. But what he loves about the World Cup, is the high quality of courses and their maintenance, which allows for men starting in the back of the pack to charge into the front end of the field, even with a late starting position. The 2019/20 season has been somewhat of a surprise, given his previous struggle. But the young Austrian has taken advantage of the World Cup courses and says that this found freedom within this kind of skiing, the kind of freedom that allows him to move without the heavy burden of expectation and filling Hirscher’s shoes.
“For me, I feel free, and I can attack every race, I don’t feel the pressure,” said Pertl. “I’m a good racer, in training it’s not that often that I’m really fast, but when it’s a race I feel good in my brain. Today was a good race for the whole team, three guys in the top eight, so hopefully, everybody in Austria is happy now.”
Saturday was a challenging day for the American and Canadian teams. Luke Winters and Tommy Ford started for the U.S. – Winter’s did not finish, whereas Ford did not qualify. The Canadians had similar struggles. Trevor Philip was unable to finish his first run, and Erik Read did not qualify for a second run.
On Sunday, the men will compete in the second parallel giant slalom event of the season.
- 1. Clement Noel (FRA): 1:41.47
- 2. Timon Haugan (NOR): +0.21
- 3. Adrian Pertl (AUT): +0.31
- 4. Michael Matt (AUT): +0.31
- 5. Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI): +0.65
- 6. Alexander Khoroshilov (RUS): +0.75
- 6. Sebastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR): +0.75
- 8. Marco Schwarz (AUT): +1.02
- 9. Andre Myhrer (SWE): +1.13
- 10. Jean-Baptiste Grange (FRA): +1.30
For full results, click here.