“A league of his own” is almost not an apt enough way to describe just how dominant Austria’s Marcel Hirscher was on Sunday in the men’s World Cup giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy. The Austrian superstar led after the first run by an impressive 0.94 seconds and increased that lead to over two-and-a-half seconds by the time he slid to a stop in the finish corral after his second run. Sunday was Hirscher’s record sixth consecutive GS win at the legendary Italian venue, tying American Ted Ligety, who has also won six times in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
Dark and icy, the Gran Risa slope in Alta Badia has a storied history. All of the GS greats have won it and the trail that twists its way through the thick Italian forrest has chewed up and spit out its fair share of legendary skiers, too. Hirscher, however, clearly has the winning formula figured out. Hirscher was joined on the podium by Frenchmen, Thomas Fanara and Alexis Pinturault, who finished 2.53 and 2.69 seconds back in second and third place, respectively.
“I have no idea how my run was,” an exhausted Hirscher said in the finish following the race. “It was definitely on the limit and some parts were definitely close to a did not finish but that is the funny thing that is coming back through the years, this one-hundred-percent will of winning. It is good, it was really on the edge. What a race. This hill, this race, these conditions, all in all the atmosphere, it is definitely one of my favorite races.”
A challenging second run saw many of Hirscher’s closest competitors slide back in the rankings. Watching the second run unfold on the live stream at the start, Hirscher knew what had to be done if he was to not suffer that same fate.
“I had to make a decision, and that decision was to ski all out,” he explained. “I knew that the only thing that was going to help me was to ski at one-hundred percent with a big fight and that’s what I did in the second run.”
Fanara managed to jump from 14th after the first run to finish second on the back of a clean and powerful second run on a course that was getting rougher with every passing skier. Although he finished well behind Hirscher, the 37-year-old Frenchman was happy to find himself back on a World Cup podium after some recent struggles with injury after tearing his ACL in December of 2016.
“I’m amazingly happy, I’m really pleased with this performance,” Fanara said. “It’s a welcome change for me, I haven’t done so well in the last two years and to be on the podium next to Marcel and Alexis is great. I didn’t feel especially good after the first run, my legs were pretty tired but this was my last Grand Risa competition and I wanted to do my best and make it special. It was also very nice because my boy and my wife were waiting for me at the finish line. To be on the podium next to two great champions is a very special way to say goodbye.”
Pinturault was the only man to beat Hirscher in a World Cup GS last season when He won in Val d’Isere, France, but is still coming into form this season after starting to work with a new serviceman at the beginning of the year.
“I feel very happy about the result, of course,” Pinturault shared. “I made the first run, which was not that good, but I made a really good second run but of course I still need to work a little bit and fix some details with my new serviceman and hopefully it will be better and better for me in the future. I think in the second run it was a little bit more icy than in the first run. The temperature was still pretty cold but the humidity was coming up. I think when rougher in the second run meets more icy, it gets to be pretty hard because we cannot see anything here when there’s no light on the course.”
The American contingent was led by Tommy Ford for the second race in a row, finishing a career-best fifth place. Three of Ford’s teammates joined him in the points with Ryan Cochran-Siegle finishing in 16th, River Radamus in 24th, and Brian McLaughlin in 27th. Ted Ligety and Hig Roberts did not finish their first runs.
“First run, I was just consistent from top to bottom,” Ford said of his race. “Second run, I just brought more power from the top all the way through the middle section down, rolling with the mistakes and kept driving. I knew I had more in the tank in the second run and I just allowed it to come out.”
It was Radamus’ first trip inside of the World Cup top 30. The reigning NorAm overall champion made his World Cup debut last December and is eager to find himself in the points with increasing regularity as the season progresses.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I just missed it in the last two [races] in Val d’Isere and Beaver Creek so I really wanted to perform here, this is the mecca of GS skiing. I skied a little bit bad up top and realized that just wasn’t going to cut it so I just tried to shift it into another gear and throw down into the top 30. I felt like I was finally in the show, finally part of this and I want to prove what I’ve got so I wanted to throw down.”
The men will now race parallel GS on Monday in Alta Badia. racing is scheduled to get underway at 6:15pm CET.
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Thomas Fanara (FRA)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
4. Manuel Feller (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5. Tommy Ford (USA)- Head/Head/Head
6. Matts Olsson (SWE)- Head/Head/Head
7. Luca de Aleprandini (ITA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8. Loic Meillard (SUI)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
9. Thomas Tumler (SUI)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
9. Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
9. Zan Kranjec (SLO)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
For complete FIS results, please click here.