It is not often that you see a racer completely dominate a discipline. Sweden’s Andre Myhrer is certainly making the Slalom his own, not unlike the way his countryman Ingemar Stenmark did in the seventies and eighties. This was the Swede’s third win in the World in a row and will be as close a home win as he will get this season. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher took second with Jens Byggmark making it two Swede’s in the top three. While the local crowd said a fond farewell to one of the stars of the Tour from the last few years, Kalle Palander, one of the new young stars of the sport made a dramatic entry to the World Cup:Â Santeri Paloniemi, the 18 year old Slalom Junior World Champion from last season showed the local crowd that all is not over with Palander retiring. Palander was allowed to fore run the second run so that he could say an emotional farewell to the tour.
With the fog coming in the first run was full of a number of surprises with racers from the back making the top thirty. Russian Alexander Horoshilov blasted into the top 30 in fifth place from a start number of 45: brave and inspiring stuff but better was to come just ten racers later when Britain’s Dave Ryding pushed the man in 30th spot out. When that man is the ex-World Cup Slalom Title winner Reini Herbst, you know you are doing something good. Herbst has had a troubled time on the last few seasons since winning the 2010 World Cup in Slalom and started the race with bib 23 and although he was 0.01 behind Italian Olympic Champion Giuliano Razzoli, he had the misfortune to drop to place 31 and would be heading home.
Well he would have been had it not been for his compatriot Mario Matt being disqualified. After each racer that makes the top 30 goes through the finish area, their kit is checked and Matt’s plate under his binding was deemed to be too high. Herbst was back in and would start the second run with a clean course as first man down. What a let off this would prove to be.
For Ryding, this was the first time that a British racer had been in the second run since Alain Baxter made the second run in Chamonix in 2005. It has been a long time since Britain has had something to crow about on the Men’s World Cup. More often than not news about British skiing in the last three years has been about the lack of funding and how the athletes need the finding to make the grade. Ryding is one of the athletes that has let his skiing do the talking and now can return to the UK and show the powers that be at UK Sport and other funding bodies that he can play at the top table. And he can play higher up the table if the funding can be made available.
When Herbst kicked out of the gate for the second run he must have known that he had been given a reprieve. A perfect course and the opportunity to show that he is back to his best was the opportunity that lay before him. A clean run and then it was a case of wait and see how good the run was. It certainly looked almost vintage Herbst. As racer after racer failed to better his time, the course started to deteriorate. Surely he could not go the whole way like Mario Matt had done in the Super Combined Slalom in Wengen in 2007 when he went first in the Slalom section and held on to win in rapidly deteriorating conditions?
It took until the tenth best racer from the first run, Patrick Thaler came down before Herbst’s time was beaten. With the whole field separated by a mere second and a half, there was little toom for error for anyone. Thaler had just over half s second lead on the Austrian and by the time he crossed the line it had been whittled done to a mere nine hundredths. Big names like Raich and Neureuther failed to dislodge the top two and despite the Russian Horoshilov having gate crashed the party on the first run, he was not able to recreate the same form despite attacking as much as he dared.
So with four to go it was stil Thaler and Herbst in the top two places. Manfred Moelgg, second in Soelden two weeks ago knocked the two off the lead and then Byggmark displaced him and finally Marcel Hirscher said he wanted the top spot. Moelgg and Byggmark had both put in big runs to try and wrestle the lead from the defending World Cup Champion and when Hirscher is in the mix, you can never discount him. Hirscher was certainly not as risky as Byggmark had been but by the time he crossed the line he was half a second in front.Â So it would be either Hirscher or Myhrer for the win. The silent one from Sweden gave it his all and the win went to Sweden by just 0.06 seconds. Afterwards he said:Â â€œIt feels great to start the season with a win,â€ Myhrer said with his usual calmness. â€œThis means I can continue to do what I have been doing so far; there is less stress when you start like this.â€ He continued:Â Â â€œThe skiing is there and I had a good summer. I took it easy in spring due to some back problems but was able to slowly increase the training. We also went to New Zealand, as we havenâ€™t been there for two years the change was welcome. I felt really good coming into this race.â€
With the Men’s speed programme in Lake Louise due to be given the go ahead on Wednesday, the tech racers now wait until Beaver Creak for the Giant Slalom and Val d’Isere for the Slalom racers in December.
Read the special on Dave Ryding’s race by clicking here