Daniel Yule picked up his second win under the lights in Madonna di Campiglio’s night slalom on Wednesday. The victory follows yet another Swiss podium by teammate Ramon Zenhaeusern over the weekend in Zagreb, and it further pushes the Swiss slalom team’s agenda of establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with on the World Cup. In December of 2018, Yule won his first World Cup slalom at Madonna, breaking a 13-year dry spell for the Swiss men at the venue with his career-best performance.
In 2018, Yule set the standard on the Canalone Miramonti slope. In 2020, his teammates followed suit. Although Zenhaeusern did not complete his second run, the Swiss still punched five men into the top 20. Twenty-three-year-old Tanguy Nef broke into the top 10 from bib 34 to finish sixth overall, 0.84 seconds off of Yule’s pace. Sandro Simonet was first out the gate second run and laid down fourth-fastest time, allowing him to jump 18 positions into 12th, one of his career-best finishes on the World Cup thus far. Marc Rochat and Loic Meillard tied for 19th, 1.87 seconds out from Yule. Rochat had started in bib 57. A commentator from Madonna’s organizing committee called the movement “some sort of Swiss renaissance in Madonna.”
“We have a good team at a moment, and I think that everybody on the team is pushing really hard,” said Yule. “Ramon (Zenhaeusern), he was on the podium three days ago in Zagreb, and everybody just keeps pushing each other and that’s what I think makes us good as a team.”
A win for Yule not only points to the growing strength of the Swiss men in a discipline where they typically fall short, it also demonstrates that in men’s slalom, the podium is really anybody’s game. Over the weekend in Zagreb, Yule finished 27th. He attributed his finish to nothing other than just not skiing fast. Despite this poor result, he sits third in the overall slalom standings.
Henrik Kristoffersen experienced a similar issue. In Zagreb, he finished 19th. In Madonna, he pulled it together and finished in second. Now, Kristoffersen leads the slalom overall standings. With a long stretch of slalom racing looming ahead in the month of January, Kristoffersen and Yule are operating on the same strategy.
“The coolest thing is to win races,” said Kristoffersen. “I have never won the big globe, so I can’t say if that’s cooler or not, but I have a World Championship gold and I’ve won quite a few slalom races, so I think the coolest thing is just to try and win races and ski as fast as possible. We can talk about the overall standing on the 22nd of March in Cortina. We have eight more slalom races to go, so take a chill pill.”
While the standings and official race results may suggest otherwise, there is a method to the madness when it comes to athletes continuously performing well in the slalom, according to the USA’s Head Slalom Coach Ryan Wilson. Young slalom teams, such as the developing U.S. men’s team, have spent the entirety of the off-season looking to the greats to reestablish their fundamentals and bring back American slalom skiing.
Wilson says that doing well in the discipline is all about exploring the fundamentals, and how those fundamentals work with an athlete’s build. Guys like today’s third-place finisher and Zagreb winner, Clement Noel, are carrying a lot of speed. But given Noel’s build, his technique does not play well for a guy built like Luke Winters (who lacks height in comparison). It’s easy, says Wilson, to watch these guys skiing at the top and think that in order to be fast, American athletes must emulate their style. But for bigger guys that have been skiing well, this style is new and constantly developing. Finding success for each individual American comes from taking bits and pieces of techniques that work for other athletes, and finding a way to make it their own.
“What are these truths, what are these fundamentals that we’re not accomplishing right now (in American slalom), and how are we going to change that,” asked Wilson. “We started with how are we going to rewrite what we think the fundamentals are in this current day and age. Now how are we going to expose that to more pace?”
Wednesday’s race in Madonna was more straight-forward than the Americans anticipated after course inspection. The set was easy, and the snow was grippy, allowing for athletes to take a more direct, aggressive line and run with it. Wilson said that Winters “over-skied the crap out of it.” Unfortunately, the more conservative approach that worked well in Levi and Val d’Isere did not ski as well in Madonna. In training, the speed is there, but that’s not worth much until it can be translated into races. Wilson said Wednesday was a disappointment for both him and Winters, who did not qualify for a second run, but either way, it’s progress.
“Levi was kind of a test period for us, and that was the first time we trained with all of the other nations and he was very fast in training with them,” said Wilson of Winters. “That obviously gave us a motivational boost and gave Luke some room to focus on just skiing fast and having fun knowing that he’s right there. Now we’re just trying to figure what it’s like to be a World Cup skier for the whole season which isn’t easy and it’s kind of a learning process. It’s another day that he’s been on the track here in Madonna; it’s another day that he’s seen another World Cup snow condition. Next year, I think he’s got a great shot at being able to go faster.”
From Madonna, the men head to Adelboden for the weekend to compete in the giant slalom and the third slalom race of January.
- 1. Daniel Yule (SUI): 1:35.60
- 2. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR): +0.15
- 3. Clement Noel (FRA): +0.25
- 4. Sebastian Foss-Solevagg (NOR): +0.30
- 5. Alexis Pinturault (FRA): +0.60
- 6. Tanguy Nef (SUI): +0.85
- 7. Stefan Hadalin (SLO): +1.34
- 7. Dave Ryding (GBR): 1.34
- 9. Manfred Moelgg (ITA): +1.39
- 10. Johannes Strolz (AUT): +1.40
For full race results, click here.