For Austrian Marcel Hirscher, winning giant slaloms has become something of a habit this season. Trailing first run leader Victor Muffat-Jeandet of France by a slim 0.05 seconds after the first run and hearing the crowd erupt as Nowegian young gun Henrik Kristoffersen took over the lead by a commanding margin, Hirscher knew he had to up his game if he was to take his third GS of the season and 17th of his career.
Attacking the dark and infamous Gran Risa with renewed vigor, Hirscher matched Kristoffersen turn for turn, crossing the finish with 0.19 seconds to spare and only Muffat-Jeandet left in the starting gate.
The Frenchman couldn’t hang on, however, and slid to third place at 0.86 seconds behind, giving Hirscher the win with Kristoffersen in second. American Ted Ligety was forced to settle for fourth place, 1.35 seconds off the winning pace.
According to Hirscher, things might have turned out differently if it weren’t for a last minute bit of information from his staff.
“That was a pretty lucky moment that my physio told me at the start before the second run that Henrik had an incredibly good run, so I exactly knew that now is the time to try your total 100 percent,” Hirscher explained. “I think I’ve done it pretty good, so I’m super happy with the first place.”
The snow in Alta Badia was uncharacteristically soft in comparison to the vertical ice rink of previous years, with the later starters in both runs having to contest with the course deterioration in the flat light of the shaded trail.
“The snow was softer than what we are used to skiing on at Alta Badia. The last couple of years that I have raced here it was always super, super slick and icy and today it was perfect grippy,” Hirscher said. “That is for sure not easy for my kind of skiing and technique. In general, I felt OK, but that is not what I’m looking for in Alta Badia. But in the end, I won, so no questions anymore. It doesn’t matter. I am super happy.”
For Kristoffersen, this result marks the first time in the 30 year history of World Cup racing at Alta Badia that a Norwegian has made it to the podium.
“I’m really proud. It was a close battle with Marcel. I’m getting closer and closer, but still he has a little edge on me,” Kristoffersen said in the finish. “Today I am really satisfied. I skied really good, especially the middle part in the second run was really good skiing. I pushed really hard. I’ve done something that no other Norwegian has done before and there have been many amazing skiers from Norway skiing here, so I’m pretty proud of myself for that.”
After hearing that Hirscher said the Norwegian forced him to ski at another level, Kristoffersen expressed deep admiration for one of the best technical talents the sport has ever seen.
“I hope I pushed him to his limit, for sure. That’s what I’m aiming for and one day, hopefully beat him. Hopefully this season, we’ll see,” he said. “It’s so hard to beat him, he’s such an unbelievable athlete. For me, he’s the best skier I’ve ever skied against for sure, without a doubt both in GS and in slalom. He’s one of the biggest all time in the sport. It’s pretty amazing to compete with him and getting closer and closer is a pretty good feeling.”
It was a day of firsts for Muffat-Jeandet who not only wore bib one for the first time in his World Cup career, but also held the lead after first run en route to his third straight podium appearance in GS.
“I’ve always been consistent in my career, so it’s good because it’s on a better level. I’m really happy with the first run, it was not so easy to start first, it was my first time in World Cup,” the Frenchman explained. “It was also a new thing for me to start last in the second run to close the gate. It’s OK, I think you have to learn it. I was in a good mind, but maybe I was a little bit too aggressive. Today it was not so icy. It’s a little bit aggressive snow and sometimes I was doing some mistakes but I’m happy because I could lose much worse. Third place is OK. Marcel was really fast and Henrik too. I need still a little bit of work to go good in two runs and then it will be OK.”
For Ligety, a fourth-place finish is definitely not what he expects from himself, and everyone knows he is more than capable of challenging for wins on every GS track – that is, when he’s healthy. After tweaking his back during training at Copper Mountain, Colo., last month, Ligety was forced to take nearly three weeks off from training and has suffered the consequences with a DNF and a DNQ as his last two World Cup GS results prior to today.
“I have three herniated disks. And then trying to ski, I tore my hip muscle and have a torn labrum in my hip,” Ligety explained in the finish.”I have a plethora of things going on. At this point, I’ve had some injections on everything and it feels better now. It’s just a month of not doing anything, I’m definitely smaller and weaker than I was two months ago.”
American Tim Jitloff was finally able to find the kind of result he has been looking for this season, finishing in a season-best seventh place, 1.86 seconds behind Hirscher. The normally stoic Jitloff let out a loud yell as he crossed the finish in the second run with the lead, which he held until Ligety unseated him.
“I definitely feel a lot better after not a bad first run. I think I skied well, I just went a little too direct with my line,” he said. “I also knew going into the second run today that I really needed to throw down a great second run because my season performance to this point has just been OK and not up to my capabilities. I was very nervous for sure, but I think that nervousness helped push me.”
For Tommy Ford also of the U.S. Ski Team, a clean course running first on the second run turned into a blistering time. He ultimately won the run by 0.80 seconds and leapt 18 places to finish 12th – his best World Cup result since 2011. Ford is currently the first alternate for tomorrow’s parallel GS.
“I finally let it go second run and skied really well, moved forward the whole way and skied clean. It felt good to just let it go,” he said.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s first ever World Cup parallel GS, U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick says to be ready for an entertaining show as the World Cup tests out a new discipline.
“The PGS is going to be interesting. A new format, a lot of it is going to be in the starts, so we are going to do some start training tomorrow,” Rearick said. “It should be a fun event, under the lights. People are excited about it, it’s the holiday season here in the Dolomites.”
The Austrian Ski Team also updated the status of Matthias Mayer, who suffered a bad crash in yesterday’s downhill in Val Gardena. According to an official statement, Mayer’s injuries were more severe than initially reported, with Mayer fracturing the T6 vertebra in addition to the first reported T7 fracture. Also, the T7 fracture was found to be unstable, forcing surgery to fuse the T5-T8 vertebrae, thus ending Mayer’s season.
“It went well for Matthias considering the circumstances. He must now stay (in hospital) for at least 10 days before he can be released into home care,” said Dr. Michael Gabl, who carried out the operation in conjunction with Dr. Klaus Galiano.
Tomorrow’s PGS gets underway at 6:00 p.m. CET.
View more photos from this race here.
Fans can stay current on the World Cup circuit by downloading the new U.S. Ski Team iOS app powered by Ski Racing here.
By Hank McKee
- Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Ligety, Head/Head/Head
- Faivre, Head/Head/Head
- Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
- Jitloff, Stockli/Lange
- Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Schoerghofer, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Luitz, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Alta Badia, Italy, Dec. 20, 2015. … It is the 30th edition of the Ski World Cup races on the Gran Risa slope in La Villa. … It is the 11th of 45 races on the men’s World Cup schedule … the fourth of ten scheduled GSs, plus a parallel GS set for Alta Badia Dec. 21. … Marcel Hirscher has won the last two previous to the race.
- It is the 35th career World Cup win for Marcel Hirscher putting him third all-time among Austrian men one behind Benjamin Raich with Hermann Maier out in front with 54 wins. … It is his 17th career World Cup GS win making him the all-time Austrian leader. … He is fourth among men all-time behind Ingemar Stenmark, Ted Ligety, and Michael Von Gruenigen. … It is his fourth win at Alta Badia, third in GS at the site. … It is his fourth win of the season and he has been on the podium in all six races he has completed.
- It is the 14th career World Cup podium for Henrik Kristoffersen … his fifth in GS. … It is his third podium of the season in four completed races. It is the first time he has finished second in a World Cup GS.
- It is the fourth career World Cup podium for Victor Muffat-Jeandet … the third in GS. … His previous best at Alta Badia had been 11th last season.
- It is the 16th time Ted Ligety has finished fourth in a World Cup race. … It matches his seventh best Alta Badia finish. … It is the third best career result for Tim Jitloff and his second best at Alta Badia where he finished fifth in the 2013 GS. … It is his best result of three recorded this season. … Tommy Ford matches his second best career finish and best GS result from Bansko Dec. 18, 2012. … It is the fifth career World Cup scoring finish for Trevor Philp … his second at Alta Badia.
- Hirscher leads the World Cup overall standings 540-520 over Aksel Lund Svindal (28th in race). … Kjetil Jansrud (DNQ 2nd) is third with 307pts. … Ligety is seventh with 241pts and Travis Ganong (did not race) tenth with 204pts.
- Hirscher leads the GS standings 360-226 over Muffat-Jeandet. … Neureuther is third with 197pts. … Ligety is fifth with 150pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 1720-1330 over Norway. … France is third with 1187pts. … The U.S. is fifth at 928pts and Canada eighth at 230pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|23||12||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:18.34||1:18.02||2:36.36||+3.02||19.30|
|28||17||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:19.42||1:18.16||2:37.58||+4.24||27.10|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|23||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|66||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|39||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR|