Racing north of the Arctic Circle in Levi, Finland, presents its own set of challenges with reduced daylight hours and altered schedules, forcing athletes to adapt to conditions they normally aren’t subjected to on the World Cup.

“The race is an hour to two hours later than a normal World Cup,” noted American Robby Kelley. “This race starts at 11:00 a.m. when most of the other races start at 9:00 or 10:00. We get to sleep in a little and most of our training sessions have been at 10:00 or so, so it’s definitely a little more relaxed wakeup because it’s so dark; the sun doesn’t come up until 9:00.”

“Growing up, we used to train at night kind of like Buck Hill-style where we train under the lights,” added Levi native and former NCAA athlete Joonas Rasanen. “For the races here, it’s the same. It’s super dark so it can be tough to get acclimated and get used to the darkness. The sun comes out maybe for four hours a day and if you’re napping at that time you’ll miss it. It’s way different than a place like Colorado that’s always sunny and prime conditions.”

In addition to the challenging weather in Levi, the Black slope itself, although not the most challenging on the World Cup, can definitely trip up racers by lulling them into a false sense of security before throwing a curve ball after breaking onto the final, steep pitch.

“It’s just full gas out of the start house,” Rasanen said. “It’s almost like running all the way to pitch and then you have to turn on your brain when it breaks over so you can nail the first four or five gates. For sure, it’s one of the easier hills, but I think it’s for sure one of the most fair ones on tour; it’s always perfect snow and the course crew does a great job.”

With Marcel Hirscher’s surprise announcement that he would make the start list for the World Cup opener in Levi, it was understandable that most of the talk surrounding Sunday’s race revolved around the Austrian star’s return from injury. Amidst the swirl of speculation about Hirscher’s race-readiness, Germany’s Felix Neureuther, riding high after the birth of his daughter in October, capitalized on the situation and took his 11th career World Cup slalom victory under the lights.

A fast and furious first run set through the Levi fog separated the top-30 skiers by only 1.56 seconds. Great Britain’s Dave Ryding set the pace after the opening run, setting himself up for a possible first World Cup win for the British.

A more complicated second run set required dynamic and tactical skiing over the Levi Black’s abrupt terrain, and Ryding fell victim to the finishing pitch after Neureuther’s masterful second run, handing the victory and traditional reindeer prize to the German.


“It’s amazing, seriously,” an elated Neureuther said in the finish. “I never thought I could win here. I’m 33-years-old, first race as a father, so winning here is unreal, seriously. It means a lot to me.”

“I think you just had to push really, really hard,” he continued. “You had to take your chances and ski smart and it worked out perfectly for me.”

When asked if he had any names picked out yet for his new reindeer, the proud new dad announced he would be naming the prize after his daughter, Matilda.

Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen joined Neureuther on the podium, showing that he has been able to shake off the distractions he dealt with over the summer and is ready to contend for another slalom title.

“I’m really happy,” Kristoffersen said. “Great skiing from Felix. It’s really cool to watch great skiing; it doesn’t matter if it’s me or anybody else so that was really cool to watch. I didn’t feel that great for the second run but managed to finish second so I’m really happy about that.”

Mattias Hargin of Sweden also returned to the slalom podium for the first time since 2015, a welcome start to the 32-year-old’s Olympic campaign.

“It’s great to start the season this way,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised with it but that makes me even happier. My skiing wasn’t so good in the last month so it feels good to get some confidence.”

Hirscher, on the other hand, showed his lack of training in the second run, sliding back 13 places to finish a disappointing 17th overall in his comeback race. Although strong in the first run that required a more straightforward and aggressive approach, the Austrian showed some rust in the second run when things got more challenging. Needless to say, look for a hungry Hirscher to push for the win in Beaver Creek come December.

Hirscher’s skiing was close, but not good enough on Sunday. Image Credit: Christian Walgram/GEPA

The Swiss men were also particularly impressive, landing four skiers in the top 10 with Luca Aerni, Daniel Yule, Loic Meillard, and Reto Schmitiger all getting their seasons started on the right foot.

Top American on the day was veteran David Chodoundsky in 23rd with Canada’s Erik Read finishing just ahead of him in 21st.

The men’s tour next heads to North America for the opening speed races of the season in Lake Louise, Canada, on Nov. 25-26 before moving on to Beaver Creek, Colo., for the Birds of Prey series Dec. 1-3.


Top 10

1. Felix Neureuther (GER) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
2. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
3. Mattias Hargin (SWE) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Luca Aerni (SUI) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
4. Daniel Yule (SUI) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
6. Loic Meillard (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
7. Sebastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
8. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
9. Manfred Moelgg (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
10. Reto Schmidiger (SUI) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker


Official Results

Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Run 1 Run 2 Total Time Diff. FIS Points WC Points
 1  4  201702 NEUREUTHER Felix 1984 GER  50.43  52.40  1:42.83  0.00  100.00
 2  6  422304 KRISTOFFERSEN Henrik 1994 NOR  50.47  52.73  1:43.20  +0.37  2.59  80.00
 3  12  501111 HARGIN Mattias 1985 SWE  51.02  52.26  1:43.28  +0.45  3.15  60.00
 4  17  511983 AERNI Luca 1993 SUI  51.06  52.31  1:43.37  +0.54  3.78  50.00
 4  8  511996 YULE Daniel 1993 SUI  51.01  52.36  1:43.37  +0.54  3.78  50.00
 6  35  512182 MEILLARD Loic 1996 SUI  51.20  52.34  1:43.54  +0.71  4.97  40.00
 7  23  422082 FOSS-SOLEVAAG Sebastian 1991 NOR  50.96  52.62  1:43.58  +0.75  5.25  36.00
 8  13  194364 PINTURAULT Alexis 1991 FRA  51.07  52.64  1:43.71  +0.88  6.16  32.00
 9  5  292491 MOELGG Manfred 1982 ITA  51.13  52.60  1:43.73  +0.90  6.30  29.00
 10  37  511908 SCHMIDIGER Reto 1992 SUI  50.90  52.86  1:43.76  +0.93  6.51  26.00
 11  20  192665 GRANGE Jean-Baptiste 1984 FRA  51.58  52.20  1:43.78  +0.95  6.65  24.00
 12  27  193967 MUFFAT-JEANDET Victor 1989 FRA  51.39  52.40  1:43.79  +0.96  6.72  22.00
 13  16  54320 SCHWARZ Marco 1995 AUT  50.91  53.01  1:43.92  +1.09  7.63  20.00
 14  1  54170 MATT Michael 1993 AUT  50.97  52.99  1:43.96  +1.13  7.91  18.00
 15  21  421669 NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian 1987 NOR  50.99  53.14  1:44.13  +1.30  9.10  16.00
 15  10  202462 DOPFER Fritz 1987 GER  51.37  52.76  1:44.13  +1.30  9.10  16.00
 17  2  53831 HIRSCHER Marcel 1989 AUT  50.75  53.40  1:44.15  +1.32  9.24  14.00
 18  3  293797 GROSS Stefano 1986 ITA  51.53  52.64  1:44.17  +1.34  9.38  13.00
 19  42  511899 ROCHAT Marc 1992 SUI  51.36  52.91  1:44.27  +1.44  10.08  12.00
 20  30  53889 HIRSCHBUEHL Christian 1990 AUT  51.85  52.48  1:44.33  +1.50  10.50  11.00
 21  45  103729 READ Erik 1991 CAN  51.85  52.57  1:44.42  +1.59  11.13  10.00
 21  15  191459 LIZEROUX Julien 1979 FRA  51.12  53.30  1:44.42  +1.59  11.13  10.00
 23  28  534508 CHODOUNSKY David 1984 USA  51.13  53.31  1:44.44  +1.61  11.27  8.00
 24  26  511902 ZENHAEUSERN Ramon 1992 SUI  51.58  52.94  1:44.52  +1.69  11.83  7.00
Did not finish 2nd run
 25  202451 STRASSER Linus 1992 GER  51.41
 24  51395 DIGRUBER Marc 1988 AUT  51.31
 18  421860 NORDBOTTEN Jonathan 1989 NOR  51.15
 14  501017 MYHRER Andre 1983 SWE  50.83
 11  54063 FELLER Manuel 1992 AUT  51.18
 9  220689 RYDING Dave 1986 GBR  50.29
Did not qualify for 2nd run
 88  150743 BERNDT Ondrej 1988 CZE  53.36
 86  550054 ZVEJNIEKS Kristaps 1992 LAT  53.43
 85  430633 JASICZEK Michal 1994 POL  53.54
 81  700868 FALAT Matej 1993 SVK  52.26
 80  6293171 VINATZER Alex 1999 ITA  52.54
 79  180567 RASANEN Joonas 1989 FIN  52.30
 78  180718 HENTTINEN Jens 1993 FIN  53.02
 77  350095 PFIFFNER Marco 1994 LIE  52.18
 76  380335 ZUBCIC Filip 1993 CRO  51.93
 74  501903 CASSMAN Anthon 1993 SWE  54.05
 72  54447 RUELAND Simon 1997 AUT  52.78
 68  54252 RASCHNER Dominik 1994 AUT  52.22
 67  291318 TONETTI Riccardo 1989 ITA  52.74
 65  561244 KRANJEC Zan 1992 SLO  52.88
 63  934502 ANKENY Michael 1991 USA  52.50
 61  934566 ROBERTS Hig 1991 USA  52.66
 59  561291 GROSELJ Zan 1993 SLO  53.03
 56  201891 SCHMID Philipp 1986 GER  51.89
 54  103676 BROWN Phil 1991 CAN  52.01
 53  512063 BONVIN Anthony 1994 SUI  55.38
 52  302982 OHKOSHI Ryunosuke 1988 JPN  53.24
 47  561322 HADALIN Stefan 1995 SLO  52.18
 46  194262 BUFFET Robin 1991 FRA  52.12
 43  201896 STEHLE Dominik 1986 GER  52.30
 40  103865 PHILP Trevor 1992 CAN  52.10
 39  320266 JUNG Dong-hyun 1988 KOR  53.03
 38  930160 KELLEY Robby 1990 USA  51.95
 36  934523 ENGEL Mark 1991 USA  52.08
 34  380334 VIDOVIC Matej 1993 CRO  51.86
 33  481327 TRIKHICHEV Pavel 1992 RUS  52.43
 32  202520 HOLZMANN Sebastian 1993 GER  52.07
 29  293098 RAZZOLI Giuliano 1984 ITA  52.15
 19  301709 YUASA Naoki 1983 JPN  52.21
 7  480736 KHOROSHILOV Alexander 1984 RUS  52.34
Did not finish 1st run
 91  54106 BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon 1992 BOL
 90  180786 BACK Robin 1996 FIN
 89  180627 MALMSTROEM Victor 1991 FIN
 87  320293 KYUNG Sung-hyun 1990 KOR
 84  221236 TAYLOR Laurie 1996 GBR
 83  180732 NIEMELA Arttu 1994 FIN
 82  180780 TAKKI Teddy 1996 FIN
 75  400235 WINKELHORST Steffan 1992 NED
 73  512274 BISSIG Semyel 1998 SUI
 71  380361 RODES Istok 1996 CRO
 70  501351 JOHANSSON Emil 1988 SWE
 69  6291430 MAURBERGER Simon 1995 ITA
 66  380290 SAMSAL Dalibor 1985 HUN
 64  511947 BRUEGGER Matthias 1993 SUI
 62  501873 LUNDBAECK Gustav 1993 SWE
 60  150644 KRYZL Krystof 1986 CZE
 58  54093 STROLZ Johannes 1992 AUT
 57  502015 JAKOBSEN Kristoffer 1994 SWE
 55  92719 ZLATKOV Kamen 1997 BUL
 51  512138 SIMONET Sandro 1995 SUI
 50  6190403 NOEL Clement 1997 FRA
 49  6531063 GINNIS AJ 1994 USA
 48  422572 BRUDEVOLL Bjoern 1997 NOR
 44  202437 LUITZ Stefan 1992 GER
 31  202485 KETTERER David 1993 GER
 22  290732 THALER Patrick 1978 ITA
Disqualified 1st run
 92  660021 DANILOCHKIN Yuri 1991 BLR
 41  6291574 SALA Tommaso 1995 ITA

 

Article Tags: Premium World Cup

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

comments

Sean Higgins
Senior Editor
-
A Lake Tahoe native and University of Vermont graduate, Higgins was a member of the Catamounts' 2012 NCAA title winning squad and earned first team All-American status in 2013. Prior to coming to Ski Racing Media, he coached U14s for the Squaw Valley Ski Team.
UP NEXT
Nov 14 2017
SkillsQuest Gets A Fitness Facelift
A new, nationally standardized fitness assessment is now in use.
LAST UP
Nov 11 2017
Vlhova Sets Exciting Tone For Season With Slalom Win
It was a great day for underdog athletes to score World Cup points.
Related Articles
199
Premium Stories Article Previews Remaining