It was spring racing at its finest on Sunday in sunny Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, as the men of the World Cup wrapped up their final regular season race of the year before World Cup Finals next week in Soldeu, Andorra. Anything can happen during a race on salted, wet snow and Sunday’s slalom proved to be no different with some of the most exciting action seen all season.
Lead changes, big jumps in the standings, and heartbreaking disappointments were all part of this year’s Pokal Vitranc races in Kranjska Gora as Switzerland’s big man, Ramon Zenhaeusern, managed to secure the first World Cup win of his career in a traditional discipline, putting on a slalom skiing clinic in the second run to best the field by an impressive 1.15 seconds. The Swiss secured his first World Cup podium last season in Kranjska Gora and has made a name for himself in the parallel discipline, winning twice individually on the World Cup and played a key role in Switzerland’s gold medal teams at the Olympics and World Championships. Saturday’s giant slalom winner, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, finished in second place and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher rounded out the podium in third, 1.17 seconds back.
Zenhaeusern sat in seventh place after the morning’s run and relied on his large frame to navigate the deteriorating second run set head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. Zenhaeusern managed to keep his momentum moving down the fall-line better than anyone else, not getting hung up in the second run ruts like many of his competitors.
“I think I have to come live here in Kranjska Gora because I feel so good here,” Zenhaeusern said of his success at the Slovenian venue. “It’s an amazing history. Last year, already my first slalom podium and this year my first slalom victory. I love Slovenia. It was not easy for my head in the second run because it was a pretty fast run and I had to risk a lot but the crowd pushed me to ski so fast down and I’m happy. I took the risk and managed that so It’s incredible. Amazing to beat Marcel Hirscher too, who won everything the last years, I think it’s the biggest day in my life.”
Kristoffersen sat in the lead after the first run but, like so many others, simply could not match Zenhaeusern’s pace in the second leg of the race. The top overall skier of the weekend, Kristoffersen is looking to end his season on a high note next week in Andorra.
“I’m not tired, I feel really good in the head for the next two races, I must say,” Kristofferson shared after the race. “Tomorrow I am looking forward to sleeping past six o’clock, that’s for sure! My weekend was definitely a step in the right direction. In the slalom, there is still some more work to do, we’re not there yet, but then with this big mistake in the second run I’m happy to be second. It could have been nothing so I’m pretty happy about it.”
Hirscher had already secured the slalom crystal globe earlier in the season and looked to have trouble in both runs finding the precise and powerful rhythm we are so accustomed to seeing out of the 68-time World Cup winner. Hirscher was all smiles in the finish, however, as the Austrian also secured his eighth Overall title over the weekend.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, that was not the best skiing this season, for sure.'” Hirscher said. “When you’ve been working so hard towards something and to reach that goal, everything, every pressure has gone off your shoulders, sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation and the energy. I also don’t like salty conditions and Henrik can ski in all conditions.”
Hirschher also addressed his pending decision to continue racing, something he has hinted at in interviews over the past few seasons.
“Many fans would love to see me ski racing for another year but what is for sure is this will be the toughest situation and decision in my whole life so far, what’s going on for the next season,” he added. “At the moment, I can’t tell you where it goes, I don’t know, but in my mind it is going crazy at the moment.”
The lone American starter, Vermont’s Sandy Vietze, did not qualify for the second run. There were no North American top-30 finishers on Sunday.
The top-25 ranked men in each discipline now head to Soldeu, Andorra, for the final downhill, super-G, GS, slalom, and team event races of the season March 13-17.
1. Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
2. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
3. Marcel Hirscher (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Manuel Feller (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5. Daniel Yule (SUI)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
6. Manfred Moelgg (ITA)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
7. Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
8. Stefano Gross (ITA)- Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
8. Andre Myhrer (SWE)- Head/Head/Head
8. Clement Noel (FRA)- Dynastar/Lange/Look
For complete FIS results, please click here.