If there was one word to describe the final men’s giant slalom of the 2019 World Cup season, it was “hot.” Everything about Saturday’s race in Soldeu, Andorra, from the temperatures to the crowd to the racing, was at the extremes as the fastest men’s GS skiers in the world battled it out for the last time down the Grandvalira slope.
With temperatures peaking at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt more like a beach day in the finish than a ski race. Both first and second run sets were fast and furious as racer after racer pushed their limits with hopes of stepping on the podium before their GS seasons ended. Despite the hot weather, the surface remained largely intact thanks to the hard work of the race crew.
The one racer that handled the hot conditions better than the rest was French star Alexis Pinturault. Pinturault set the pace in the first run and managed to ski aggressively and composed in the second run to walk away with his first GS win of the season, finishing with a two-run time of 2:13.06 seconds. 21-year-old phenom, Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, claimed his second GS podium in as many races thanks to a strong second run that saw him jump from third place after the first run to finish in second, 0.44 seconds back. Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec rounded out the podium in third, 1.03 seconds off the pace.
“[Winning in GS] was one of my goals this winter and finally I got it,” Pinturault said. “I was always around, I know I had some trouble, especially in second runs, to be consistent but at least today it was all-in-all really good and the reason I get this victory. I’m really happy about it and it’s a kind of high-point of my winter.”
Pinturault currently sits in second in the Overall World Cup standings and made it clear where he has his sights set moving forward.
“I knew coming into this year that the goal was to step up a lot in slalom because to be able to win the overall you have to be really strong in GS but also in slalom,” he continued. “Two discipline minimum with a lot of races where you can be really strong so definitely that was the goal of the winter. Now that I’m much better in slalom I want to for sure continue in that way but I have to be even faster and of course continue in GS to be able to win an overall.”
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher wrapped up the GS title before finals and ultimately finished in sixth place on Saturday, 1.74 seconds back. The Austrian superstar has now won an improbable six giant slalom titles on the World Cup and considers them some of the greatest accomplishments of his career.
“The result today, for me personally, is definitely not what I was hoping for and looking for,” Hirscher explained. “Sixth place is not too bad but being 1.7 behind Alexis is really a big gap. On the other hand, congrats to the podium because they were skiing really better than I have shown in today’s race. I’m really happy with having my sixth small crystal globe in giant slalom. That means a lot to me because giant slalom is, in my opinion, the heart of alpine ski racing. If you are good in GS you can get to a perfect slalom skier or you can be as well a brilliant speed guy in the future. It’s great to have this.”
The American contingent was led by GS legend Ted Ligety in eighth place. Ligety tied his season-best result on Saturday but admitted he still has a long way to go to return to the form that saw him take five GS crystal globes of his own.
“It was tied for my season best so that’s good, for sure, but it’s not where I want to be, having my best results being eighth place but today was a good step in the right direction,” Ligety said in the finish. “Some good skiing in spots and I’m happy with that, I just need to tighten it up. This was definitely an eraser season, really not something I want to take too much away from. I need to figure out how to get my body in order so I can actually sustain a training load and a race load, which I wasn’t able to do this year so that’s a big thing and we’ll see if I can do that next year.”
Hampered with injuries the last few seasons, Ligety said he will scale back his racing going forward, choosing to focus exclusively on GS in order to stay healthy and spend more time with his wife and young son at home.
“Right now the plan is just to only do GS and be able to be home a lot more,” he added. “My son will be two next year and that’s not easy traveling with a two-year-old, it was hard enough with a one-and-a-half-year-old this year. It’s a lot of fun but it will be nice to be able to go home after the races. There’s actually pretty good breaks if you’re only doing giant slalom so it makes the schedule just a little bit easier.”
Tommy Ford followed Ligety in 17th place and 2019 World Junior GS Champion River Radamus did not finish his first run.
The men’s World Cup season concludes in Soldeu on Sunday, March 17, with the slalom.
- Alexis Pinturault (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Marco Odermatt (SUI)- Stoeckli/Salomon
- Zan Kranjec (SLO)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Manuel Feller (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Mathieu Faivre (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Luca De Aliprandini (ITA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Ted Ligety (USA)- Head/Head/Head
- Victor Muffat-Jeandet (FRA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Loic Meillard (SUI)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
For complete FIS results, please click here.
For complete GS standings, please click here.