VAL D’ISERE, France – Despite all predictions and the crazy amounts of snow that fell in Val d’ Isere over the past days and after being rescheduled for the third time the men’s Slalom proved to be an amazing race.
There’s no better story than the one of a young, amazingly talented guy winning his first classic World Cup race in a discipline considered not to be his strongest and in front of a home crowd. Saturday night Alexis Pinturalt did just that, making it the best reward for everyone that has been working hard over the past few days to make the race happen. With a time of 1 minute, 36.55 seconds Pintuault won the Saturday’s Slalom half a second ahead of Felix Neureuther, who was third after the first run and 0.57 seconds ahead of first run’s leader Marcel Hirscher.
“I am pretty surprised,” Piturault said with a big smile. “When I crossed the finish line in the second run and saw my advantage I could hardly believe it It's my second victory, after winning a city event in Moscow and its definitely very special victory as it’s my first in a classic discipline. I was hoping to do so well as my slalom had been growing and this is a great confirmation that things are working well! I want to keep this feeling going into the GS tomorrow. I felt strong and mentally ready to do my best today.”
If conditions were one of the main topics of discussion among the teams, there is one skier who seemed to appreciate the ‘rollercoaster’ Slalom runs.
“I think it was a great slalom day today,” Neureuther said. “I prefer conditions like this to those we had in Levi. You have to fight and risk a lot and that makes it fun - it makes you fight while skiing smart and when that happen you know the best skier will win.”
After being troubled by back pains over the summer, the second place comes as a confirmation that not always a lot of skiing is rewarded with great results.
“In September I took seven weeks off for back problems and it seems that sometimes less training also works. It's not an easy slope and it’s a competitive crowd - we are the best skiers and we get to ski on some of the most difficult and amazing raves in the world. The one in Val d' insert for sure fits that description. To be on the podium here, with two other great skiers make is a great motivation for the rest of the season.”
Hirscher seemed a bit disappointed at first by the fact that he was unable to hold on to his lead from the first run, By the time he reached the press conference, one could see a smile on his face.
“It's fun for me in the seven races I have done this season I landed on the podium four times, meaning I got a podium end in every technical discipline we had this season and its definitely something I can't complain about.”
Hirscher obviously wanted to win, but sometimes when you push yourself to the limit, mistakes can happen.
“I knew Pinturault skied fast and that I had to take a lot of risk – sometimes that pays off and sometimes it leads to a lot of mistakes. Today I definitely did too many mistakes in the second run.”
If most were struggling with the snow and challenging hill, Hirscher struggled with visibility the most.
“It was not an easy day, even though the visibility improved compared to the first run but, I still wish there would have been a bit of more light. The crew working on the hill did a great job dealing with over a meter and a half of fresh snow. Our travel Friday night to Val d’Isere got delayed because of all the snow and it has been helpful to start the first run at 2 pm.”
Friday night, when at the Team Captains meeting an announcement was made that due to Avalanche control all persons must remain in the building for at least an hour, the prospect of a race happening in less then 24 hours seemed all but realistic. But as we have all witnessed one too many times, Mother Nature likes to play games with people’s plans and Saturday morning nothing was left from the snowstorm.
With great effort from the Organizers, long hours on the course for the slip crews and a little luck, the Slalom race not only started as planned but proved to be a great show for the couple thousands of people cheering for the best skiers in the world from the finish area.
by Ana Jelusic