Combined has been a little bit of a black sheep on the World Cup over the last decade or so. In addition to rumors that the combined may be scratched all together any season now, the discipline has gone under several rule changes in recent years. The changes started with ditching two slalom runs in favor of one, then using super-G instead of downhill as the speed run, and new for this season, not reversing the top 30 finishers from the speed run in the afternoon’s run of slalom like what is done for second runs of traditional slalom and giant slalom.
All of this has been an effort to make the discipline more fair to both slalom and speed skiers, but also make the sport more fun to watch for spectators and fans at home. Did FIS’ latest incarnation of the classic discipline deliver? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Sunday’s alpine combined in Bormio closed out a grueling three day series in the Dolomites and was definitely interesting to watch. Already one of the most demanding speed tracks on the men’s side, the morning’s super-G run took place in the shadows of the lower section of the downhill track and provided a formidable challenge for speed specialists and slalom skiers alike with a technical set and rattly surface.
Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde managed to squeak ahead of Italian star and back-to-back downhill winner Dominik Paris by 0.03 seconds to set the fastest super-G time. As expected, the top of the super-G results were speed-specialist heavy with only Switzerland’s Loic Meillard and France’s Alexis Pinturault representing as the only top-tier slalom skiers inside of the top 15 in eighth and 12th place, respectively.
The super-G run was not without it’s fair share of carnage either, with numerous athletes crashing out, some quite spectacularly. Unfortunately, Austria’s Christopher Neumayer high-sided himself entering the infamous traverse section and had to be airlifted off course with a suspected knee injury. No further updates on his condition have been released as of publication.
The new format meant that Kilde was the first racer out of the gate for the slalom run, followed by Paris and so on. As hard as it is to watch 200-pound-plus downhill skiers daintily make their way down an icy slalom, Kilde showed some serious slalom chops and held the lead until Pinturault stepped into the gate 11 skiers later.
With 0.97 seconds to make up in order to take the lead, Pinturault left nothing on the table during his run, masterfully picking apart the course and setting the fastest slalom time by over three quarters of a second and taking the overall lead by 0.51 seconds ahead of Kilde. Meillard managed to set the second fastest slalom time to finish on the podium in third place, 0.56 seconds back.
“I think it’s a really big advantage for the downhillers because they just have to ski normal on the super-G or downhill and then they will start in the first group in the slalom, that makes a really huge difference,” Pinturault shared of the new format. “We didn’t see any slalom guys coming from the back who were able to come close to the podium today. It shows how hard it is for the slalom skiers when they are not coming close to minimum around the top 10 after the super-G or the downhill.”
Pinturault was facing challenges of his own on Sunday after suffering an injury to his adductor muscle in the Alta Badia parallel earlier in the week. The Frenchman was hard at work rehabbing in order to be in shape to race on Sunday and was a big question mark heading into the day.
“So far it will be really important for me to try my best to fix this adductor problem and try to make it go away as fast as possible,” he said of his immediate plans for the future. “That will be the first goal and then we will try to prepare, but not many days because it will be really important for me to rest, especially after this stress for my leg.”
After back-to-back fourth place finishes in the two downhill races, Kilde finally stepped onto the podium in Bormio on Sunday. Kilde also now leads the Overall standings heading into 2020.
“Of course, it’s a challenging hill and a tough week behind me and I’m feeling it right now after that longer slalom, I’m not used to that, but all in all happy with the performance and it’s really fun and great to ski well in Bormio,” he said after the race. “Going into Bormio is like going into war, you know? It’s definitely one of the coolest slopes we have but the conditions make it always really challenging with visibility and the icy conditions. All in all, I think it’s a lot of fun to ski here.”
In contrast to Pinturault, Kilde expressed that he is, in general, a fan of the new format and thinks it makes the race more fair to speed skiers like himself. His one critique was that it could mean that the race could be decided very early on in the second run leaving very little excitement left for fans watching till the end of the race.
“For a speed skier, it’s pretty good because the slalom is really challenging,” he explained. “The super-G today was a little challenging and if you have two challenging courses then I think it should be fair to have some advantage going into the slalom. Of course, for the people at home watching it’s a bit of a pity because the race is over pretty fast. That’s the only negative part about it. I think it would be fun if we make it maybe a shorter super-G and a shorter slalom. The race can be more interesting throughout the whole race.”
Meillard stepped onto the podium for the first time this season, capping of an impressive weekend for the Swiss team overall with Beat Feuz and Urs Kryenbuehl landing on downhill podiums as well. Meillard entered this season with high expectations for himself but has enjoyed a steady progression since the season opener in Soelden.
“It’s been nice for the whole team,” Meillard shared. “It’s nice to have four podiums after three days. I had a little bit more expectations for myself at the beginning of the season but it’s been getting better and better and the feelings on the skis are getting also better. I would say it’s a work in progress and the progression is there so I have to continue that way and work hard for 2020.”
The 23-year-old Meillard also added that he plans to race more speed in the coming years with the hopes of challenging or an overall title at some point in his career.
“My goal is simply to get a little bit of taste in speed and to enjoy it,” he said. “The goal is to progress slowly into all the disciplines and to try to get closer to Alexis.”
The Americans were once again led by the impressive skiing of Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who landed in fifth place after an impressive slalom showing following a 15th place super-G run. Sunday was also the Vermonter’s career best World Cup finish.
“Really don’t know where that came from,” Cochran-Siegle shared of his slalom run. “Felt pretty good in the warmups and was coming in hot off a second place at Cochran’s TGFS last March.”
Following Cochran-Siegle in for the Americans was Bryce Bennett in 18th place. Jared Goldberg did not finish his super-G run and Sam Morse crashed out in the slalom run.
Canada’s Brodie Seger finished in 29th place.
The men’s Tour is now off for the remainder of 2019 and will pick back up with slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on January 5.
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – 2:32.56 Head/Head/Head
- Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR) – +0.51 Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Loic Meillard (SUI) – +0.56 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Riccardo Tonetti (ITA) – +1.87 Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
- Ryan Cochran-Siegle (USA) – +2.33 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Nils Allegre (FRA) – +2.37 Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Pavel Trikhichev (RUS) – +2.61 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Gino Caviezel (SUI) – +2.66 Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Justin Murisier (SUI) – +2.95 Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) – +3.11 Head/Head/Head
For complete results, click here.