ASPEN, Colo. — It would be hard to think of a more fitting end to the men’s giant slalom season than Saturday’s race in Aspen. Under bluebird skies and copious amounts of sunshine, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher put an exclamation mark at the end of his giant slalom season, taking the final race of the year and the crystal globe with a total time of 1:49.79 seconds, 0.53 seconds ahead of Germany’s Felix Neureuther in second and 1.19 seconds ahead of Frenchman Mathieu Faivre in third.
An overnight freeze provided a firm enough surface for exciting action in the first run as Neureuther managed to squeak ahead of Hirscher by only 0.01 seconds to set the pace in the morning. Faivre sat in fourth place, 0.36 seconds off of the German. Saturday’s course was relatively short for a World Cup GS, as Neureuther’s time of 53.11 was around 20 seconds shorter than the typical World Cup GS run of 1:10-1:20 seconds. Even though the run was short, 2.39 seconds was the spread in the first run between first and last position with the softening surface.
Second run action saw Italian Florian Eisath take advantage of an early start number and jump all the way from 23rd in the first run to a tie for fifth overall with the fastest second run time. Many racers struggled with the warm, soft conditions as the standings were shaken up as the race drew to a close. Faivre managed to hold on, however, and crossed the line with the lead and waited for the remaining three racers to challenge him. Faivre’s compatriot Alexis Pinturault failed to finish his second run, giving the Frenchman three GS wins and three DNFs in eight World Cup races this season. Hirscher, although he secured the globe in Kranjska Gora two weeks ago, skied like a man possessed and took the lead by over a second with only Neureuther left to challenge. The German laid down a valiant effort, but was unable to match Hirscher on the bottom pitch and settled for second place, 0.53 seconds shy of the win.
This season was Hirscher’s fourth career GS title and was able to fend off some incredibly fast skiing from his rivals, particularly that of Pinturault, who held the lead in the season standings until Hirscher took advantage of Pinturault’s finishing struggles.
“You know, today’s race was very tough, but you’ve known me for quite a long time and for me every race is very serious and I want to win it if it is possible,” said Hirscher. “I’m super, super happy protecting the globe from Alexis Pinturault. This season means a lot to me because at the beginning of the season he was unbelievably fast, so I proved myself to be pretty good during the season.”
Neureuther managed to battle through back, knee, and equipment issues this season and was very happy to end his GS season with a second-place finish. No doubt that the German will be eyeing the top step of the podium again on Sunday in the slalom.
Faivre’s third place was enough to vault the Frenchman into second place in the GS standings. With his maiden win under his belt this season, look for big things not only from Faivre, but the rest of the incredibly strong French giant slalom team in the coming years.
“I am very happy about my race; today was the last for me. I am happy to finish this one on the podium and, of course, in second pace for the GS standings. I try to not check the points, but it’s impossible to not know. I just did my skiing and had a lot of fun, and I’m happy about the result today. The only thing I want to do is always improve my skiing and my physique, and I’m happy to finish this season better than the last season.”
The lone American racer was Tommy Ford, who managed to finish in 18th place after setting the third fastest second run time in his first World Cup Finals appearance. The Oregonian is now looking forward to finishing the season strong at U.S. National Championships in Sugarloaf, Maine.
“It’s been a learning year,” explained Ford. “I’ve been progressing throughout the year and just kind of kept moving through. I think it was a good second run, and I’m psyched for Nationals. It’s funny; It’s really just another race, but it’s cool because it’s a sign of a consistent season, so I am definitely building consistency, but I still got some work to do. Racing here will probably help for U.S. Nationals, on the soft snow, but honestly, I’ve been struggling with the longer skis ever since they came out on these conditions.”
The men will now race slalom to wrap up the 2017 World Cup season in Aspen on Sunday, March 19.
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1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Felix Neureuther (GER) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
3. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
4. Stefan Luitz (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
5. Florian Eisath (ITA) – Blizzard/Tecnica/Marker
5. Matts Olsson (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
7. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
8. Roland Leitinger (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
9. Leif Kristian Haugen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
10. Cyprien Sarrazin (FRA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|9||4||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||54.25||57.56||1:51.81||+2.02||18.03||29.00|
|11||10||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA||54.37||57.57||1:51.94||+2.15||19.19||24.00|
|23||25||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||54.56||59.62||1:54.18||+4.39||39.19|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|