23,000 ski-mad Swiss fans packed the finish area in Adelboden, Switzerland, to watch the fastest giant slalom skiers in the world battle it out down one of the most storied venues on the World Cup Tour on Saturday. The Chuenisbaergli slope in Adelboden has hosted international ski races since well before the conception of the modern World Cup and has been a regular venue on the men’s circuit ever since 1967. In total, Adelboden has 63 years of ski racing history to its name.
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher has been keen to write a bit of history of his own at the Swiss venue as the living legend took his eighth win in Adelboden and his 66th career World Cup win on Saturday. Battling from behind after Norway’s wunderkind, Henrik Kristoffersen, powered his way to the lead after the first run, Hirscher put on a GS masterclass in the second run and took the victory by 0.71 seconds ahead of the Norwegian who ultimately settled for second place. France’s Thomas Fanara found the podium for the second time this season in third after an impressive second run of his own, 1.04 seconds off of Hirscher’s winning pace.
“In the first run we were pretty lucky that Henrik made so many mistakes because he was definitely really fast in the first run,” Hirscher said of his day. “We made some small setup adjustments and that worked really great, especially in this middle part, the feeling was wonderful and I knew exactly that I could push it really hard and it was definitely, I think, great skiing there.”
Hirscher maintained that even though he says that his between-run equipment adjustments made the difference in the second run, his skiing had to match his setup in order for him to come out on top at the finish.
“They always go hand-in-hand,” he explained. “If the skis are running great, you can push it even harder so if they are running smooth with no chattering anymore you feel confident. I think it’s sort of a combination.”
At 29 years old, a new family at home, and so little left for him to accomplish in the sport, Hirscher has hinted at the possibility of retirement from time to time. With him closing in on Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time win record of 86, could Hirscher really be thinking about calling it quits when he’s at the top of his game and likely has several years of healthy skiing left?
“I think about it every day,” he said with a wry smile.
Kristoffersen was unable to match the blistering pace of Hirscher on the lower sections of the second run. However, if it weren’t for a brief hiccup near the slalom start, the 24-year-old Norwegian and could very well have been able to carry his momentum to the finish and secure his first win of the season.
“My day was pretty good,” he said after the race. “I made a mistake in the first run and a mistake in the second run and that’s where I lost most of the time. I keep [Marcel] honest the whole way, that’s what we have to keep doing. He has the experience and the confidence but we just have to keep pushing and one day, hopefully, it will break. I just have to ski faster, honestly. I skied good in the first run but had that big mistake at the bottom and in the second run I tried to push as much as possible but we’re getting there, getting closer. I just have to keep fighting and keep pushing. Confidence comes from good skiing.”
Fanara has been on a farewell tour so far in 2018-19, taking in every World Cup stop as the 37-year-old plans to retire at the end of this season. With a second place last month in Alta Badia and another third-place finish in Adelboden, Fanara looks to be making the most of his last races on Tour.
“I’m really, really happy to finish on the podium today,” he said in the finish. “You know, this is my last Adelboden and to finish on the podium today and to share it with my family because my hometown is not far away and to share it with everybody here is amazing. In Adelboden, on this slope with its history and its soul is really, really special. I am so happy.”
The American contingent was led by Oregonian, Tommy Ford, in an impressive sixth place. Ford hammered his way to fifth after the first run and let it all hang out in his second run before sliding into another top-10 finish. Ford now sits in ninth place in the overall GS standings.
“It was a good fight, kind of a rattly second run,” Ford said. “My legs, I could feel them there, my head bobbing around a couple of times. The weather was all over the place but all-in-all I’m keeping it consistent. I was lacking a little consistency between runs with myself and the speed is there and it was there at times today.”
American legend, Ted Ligety, has been struggling with back issues since before the holidays in Alta Badia. After a lackluster first run saw him sitting in 25th, the Park City, Utah, native managed to turn things around and jump up nine spots, finishing in 16th.
“First run was pretty bad, especially on the bottom here,” Ligety admitted. “Second run was a step in the right direction but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m just kind of stuck in this little vicious cycle so I need to break that right now. My back feels okay but it’s definitely on the vulnerable side.”
The rest of the American contingent of Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Brian McLaughlin, River Radamus, and Nicholas Krause did not qualify for the second run.
The men continue racing in Adelboden on Sunday with the first run of slalom action set to get underway at 10:30am CET.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Thomas Fanara (FRA)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Zan Kranjec (SLO)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Tommy Ford (USA)- Head/Head/Head
- Marco Schwarz (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Gino Caviezel (SUI)- Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Marco Odermatt (SUI)- Stoeckli/Salomon
For complete FIS results, please click here.