The skies opened up and the heavy snowfall that forced the cancellation of Saturday’s super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, was cleared off the race hill for the men of the World Cup to take to the “Tomba” slope for giant slalom racing on Sunday morning. With the Italian great in attendance to watch the action on his namesake hill, a turny and technically demanding set awaited the field.
After 30 centimeters of fresh snow on Saturday scrapped the super-G, organizers were hard at work in the afternoon and evening to clear the slope of the soft snow, re-water the GS track, and hope the weather cooperated for a hard surface and clear skies Sunday morning. Favorable wether forecasts turned out to be true as a hard track and good visibility welcomed the racers for inspection.
Two runs of long, technical GS skiing took its toll on the field but nobody handled the challenges better than Noway’s Henrik Kristoffersen. Fresh off his gold medal from the World Championship GS in Are, Sweden, last week, the Norwegian managed to ride that momentum to his first World Cup GS victory since 2015. Kristoffersen finished with a two-run time of 2:26.87 seconds and managed to sneak in front of first-run leader and arch rival, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, by a slim 0.04 hundredths of a second. French veteran, Thomas Fanara, continued his farewell season in the best way, picking up another podium in third, 0.39 seconds back.
Kristoffersen sat in second place after the first run, 0.22 seconds behind Hirscher and knew that he would have to find the same intensity that brought him his World Championship title if he was to walk away with the win. Despite a course that was beginning to deteriorate and many other first-run contenders sliding back in the standings, the 24-year-old Norwegian dug deep and came out on top.
“It feels really good,” Kristoffersen said after the race. “Close call with Marcel there, he was skiing great but finally the hundredths are a little bit on my side again. It hasn’t been there the last two years so that’s a good feeling. We’ve worked so hard with the giant slalom, pushing and everything. It’s really, really great to get a little bit back from it now because it’s been two years of really hard work in GS. I was tired after first run but I think everybody was. It was a long and turny course in the first run and a little bit the same in the second run. It’s been a long World Cup season so far, especially going straight from Are to Stockholm and then doing the super combined here.”
Looking forward, the Norwegian has high hopes for a strong slalom performance at the last technical stop of the regular season in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in two weeks.
“Now I have two weeks until Kranjska so then I really have to get the slalom going again, it’s not been good enough since Madonna,” he admitted. “I was skiing great in Madonna but straddled. Since then it’s not been good enough and we have to change that before Kranjska Gora.”
Despite missing out on another World Cup victory, Hirscher did clinch his sixth GS season title on Sunday. Hirscher has without a doubt been the most dominant technical skier of his generation and solidifying yet another globe with two races left in the season cements that legacy even more than it had been already.
“The GS globe is definitely something special because if you’re a good GS skier you have mostly all the opportunities to go in each direction with alpine skiing, slalom or super-G and downhill, so I think it is the fundamental discipline for alpine ski racing so this is great to have another globe, it is so crazy, honestly,” Hirscher said of his accomplishment.
“In my opinion it was not so turny but conditions were so-s0 in the morning, especially in this turny part,” he continued about Sunday’s race. “With this snowfall, it was not so easy to prepare the slope perfectly but, honestly, I have to say that I was pretty surprised that it was so good all in all because yesterday I thought to myself, ‘Oh, this can be really tricky for the organization’ but they managed everything brilliantly.”
Fanara became the oldest man to stand on a World Cup GS podium this season at 37-years-old. The Frenchman’s farewell season could not be going much better as Sunday’s result was his third podium appearance of the season after second and third-place finishes in Alta Badia and Adelboden, respectively. In fact, Fanara’s last trip to Bansko in 2012 resulted in a broken shoulder. Needless to say, the GS specialist was happy to leave Bulgaria with happier memories this time around.
“Yeah, I have some memories of this day because I broke my shoulder,” he reflected. “It was not good memories but today I keep with me just this podium. I can retire in peace with Bansko. I will enjoy every moment of my last races. Everybody asks me if I will go on one more season and, unfortunately, I will not because I have made my decision and this is my last season. I just want one more chance to do good results because I want to fight until the last race. This is my spirit and I just want to enjoy the last race so I will push until the last gates pf my career.”
The Americans were led by the strong skiing of Tommy Ford, who finished in ninth place, 1.89 seconds back. Ford has been enjoying the most consistent World Cup season of his career and is looking forward to ending it on a high note in the final two races of the season in Kranjka Gora and World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra, next month.
Following Ford in 16th was Ryan Cochran-Siegle. Ted Ligety ran into some serious trouble in his second run and finished in 29th place. The other two American starters, Brian McLaughlin and Nicholas Krause, did not finish their first runs.
The men now head to Kvitfjell, Norway, for super-G and downhill racing February 28-March 3.
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Thomas Fanara (FRA)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Zan Kranjec (SLO)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Matts Olsson (SWE)- Head/Head/Head
- Rasmus Windingstad (NOR)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marco Odermatt (SUI)- Stoeckli/Salomon
- Tommy Ford (USA):- Head/Head/Head
- Leif Kristian Nestvold Haugen (NOR)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
For complete FIS results, please click here.