Val d’Isere sits in the French alps not far from the Italian border. A charming mountain town, Marcel Hirscher called it the perfect valley for a ski holiday. With twinkling Christmas lights, ample snow and plenty of bars for apres ski activities, it’s not hard to understand why. While athletes may enjoy the town and all its diversions, the men’s race slope has a very different reputation.
The full-length “La Face De Bellevarde” course has a 410 meter vertical drop with an unrelenting series of break overs and terrain changes. It is the type of venue that no one feels good on. The hill had a 366 meter drop on Saturday because of the decision to lower the start due to high winds, but the shortened course did not make the men’s lives easier in the giant slalom race.
“It’s always a special place here to come back because I always skied very well here, but it’s not really fun to ski because it’s so difficult,” said second-place finisher Stefan Luitz of Germany. “You have not the best feeling, but in the end, when you stand on the podium, it’s worth it.”
The only person faster on the slope was Alexis Pinturault of France, who was not only performing in front of a home crowd, but also his parents, wife, and many other family members and friends. The Frenchman took his first win of the season and defended his victory from last year in style, but it was not without the challenges that the venue is known for.
“After a victory, you just can feel great,” he said. “It was really tough with the storm and with the visibility, but second run I would say was a little bit better,with the light and also with the conditions, so I tried to push really hard, and it looks like it was way better.”
Pinturault’s second run speed along with Hirscher’s huge second-run error allowed him to stand atop the podium. The Austrian, who won the first run, hooked his arm through a panel early in the course. He scrubbed speed and carried the flag with him for some time down the course. Hirscher ultimately ended up in third place.
When asked about what was going through his head at the moment it happened, he said he could not share because it was not safe for TV. Hirscher did, however, say that when something like that happens there is no choice, but to keep charging.
“You have only one choice,” he said. “Just go all out and put everything on 21 red or something like that, so pretty easy to make a decision.”
Hirscher continues to lead the giant slalom standings with 160 points, just 20 points ahead of Luitz, who seems to have found his rhythm this season.
“It feels amazing,” the German said. “Indescribable. It’s amazing to do two races, two podiums.”
This marked the sixth podium result of Luitz’s career and was a repeat performance of his first World Cup podium finish in 2012, which he earned at Val d’Isere. The German has never won a World Cup giant slalom, but is surely hoping to turn his current momentum into a victory.
Unfortunately, the slope got the best of the Americans. Ted Ligety lead the six-man squad, finishing in 16th place. It was an impressive result considering he was in 30th position after the first run.
“The second run was better,” the American shared. “It didn’t feel much better. It was faster at least, so that’s good. It’s just this place is brutal. It doesn’t feel good even when you win. It’s just a tough adjustment after skiing for a month on easy, nice grippy Colorado snow and then getting thrown off the plane right into this.”
Tim Jitloff, who is skiing independently this season after not being nominated to the 2017-18 national team, was the next fastest American in 20th place. Tommy Ford, who was 10th after the first run, finished the day in 22nd.
“It was nice to have three guys in the second run,” Ligety said. “Tommy skied really well first run. Looks like he must of hit a rock or something on his right footers because he had no grip second run–just on that side of his skiing. You know, that’s a bummer because he definitely has the skills to be in there. And good to see Jit in the second run, so that’s nice to have three guys in there.”
Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Hig Roberts were just outside the top 30 bubble in 33rd and 35th, respectively. World Cup veteran David Chodounsky did not finish the first run.
The men will take another crack at the slope on Sunday with a World Cup slalom race.
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA) – Head / Head / Head
- Stefan Luitz (GER) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Mathieu Faivre (FRA) – Head / Head / Head
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Alexander Schmid (GER) – Head / Head / Head
- Zan Kranjec (SLO) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Manuel Feller (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Matts Olsson (SWE) – Head / Head / Head
- Thomas Fanara (FRA) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|13||6||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||58.01||55.87||1:53.88||+2.70||23.80||20.00|
|19||8||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA||58.14||56.07||1:54.21||+3.03||26.71||12.00|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|70||54106||BREITFUSS KAMMERLANDER Simon||1992||BOL||1:03.33|
|68||501992||GRAHN Dan Axel||1994||SWE||1:02.56|
|62||491853||DEL CAMPO Juan||1994||ESP||1:03.20|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|