Talking after the 12th place in Obereggen, Ryding reflected back on what this result meant: â€œThis was a really tough race. I stuck it in to 12th and this was the first time that I have finished this hill. To be 12th with those sort of guys in there, it is pretty good.â€ Ryding had put some big names behind him on the results list, how good did he feel this was for the confidence? â€œIt is pretty good. There are some big names behind me and there are some guys ahead of me that I can beat. I know what I can do; I just have to keep doing it. If I can get two good runs in there, these were two pretty good runs but with a few minor tweaks here and there it would have been better.â€
Ryding has a growing reputation on the slopes. You only have to see the cafÃ© and the lift queue to see who talks to whom to see this growing reputation. Obviously his results help in this but Ryding is also a likeable guy. Having learnt his graft on the dry slopes of Pendle, Obereggen has a mixture of flat and steep. â€œOn the first run, I let it rip up there and was good the whole way,â€ he explained, â€œon the second run I made a few mistake down the bottom which if I had ironed that out, I would have been right in the top ten. In the summer I have been fast on all snow and all conditions and terrain. Obviously I prefer the flats as that is where I am really fast.â€
It has been good season with some great results so far. How does Ryding feel that the second World Cup went after the excitement of the Levi result? â€œI was 1.58 out after 16 seconds on the first split,â€ he reflects on the Val d’Isere race, â€œthis was hardly ideal but came down in 42nd. I was 19th on the bottom split so the skiing is there. I find it hard at the moment to not make a mistake in the run somewhere. This is because I am putting it on the line and mistakes happen in slalom. Recovering from the mistakes makes you a better slalom skier as well, I just have to keep doing that.â€
With Ryding being a one-racer team and travelling the tour with just his coach there, how does he find this? â€œIt would be better it I had some team mates,â€ he explains, â€œTristan is the same age as me so off the hill there is a fair amount of banter. He is good like that, even if I have had a bad day, eventually he will forget it and we can have a laugh about it and move on. I know a lot of the other racers so you always mingle with the other teams. It has its benefits as well as I get to train with whoever I want as it is just me and my coach. So it does have its benefits as well.â€
So with the benefits of being just him and Tristan, who does he prefer training with? â€œI do not mind really as long as there is someone fast so you can push along. I train a lot with the Japanese and the Finnish guys. I like training with the Finns as Santo, the World Junior Champion is with them and he knows how to let it rip. I know that if I am ahead or around him, then I am skiing well. It is a good gauge, I think they quite like training with us as well. It seems to work well.â€
Ryding won the FIS race in Davos in windy conditions. How does this rank with him in terms of wins for the season? â€œIt is a another stepping stone. The Finnish guy was there and I was not the best guy at the start but I knew that if I skied well I would be right in there. With every FIS race that is what I have to do. Yes, it was a first win but it is a similar result to here (Obereggen). I take a lot of positives from that, from here and also from Levi. I would love to do it again and let it rip on the second run in a World Cup.â€
Next up on the World Cup for Ryding is Madonna di Campiglio, a hill that brought a number of great results including an eighth place for Alain Baxter in 2000. Has Ryding been in touch with Baxter to gain important information about the hill? â€œI have skied the hill before, this was my first good result last year, I skied from bib 40 into 7th in the Europa Cup, I have skied the hill three or four times now. It is still all or nothing from my bib until I ski to better points in the Europa Cup.â€
Ryding acknowledged that while the 12-point result he got in Obereggen was a good result, he needs to be scoring around the 8-point mark to move up the start list in the World Cup. â€œThat is what I am aiming for,â€ he explained. â€œAt the next points list I will move to about 9.9 and that will move me up a couple of bibs from what I have got at the moment. Realistically I need 8 points and then it is really on.â€
Ryding understood why he was not on the TV for the Levi race and realizes that until he starts in the 40â€™s at least that this will not happen. He watched the German Eurosport coverage of his second run in Levi and reflects on how astounded they were that a Brit had made the second run. â€œI have to pull my finger out and from somewhere get a seven or an eight.â€
Does he feel however that it is going in the right direction? â€œTouch wood I am very fast at the moment, I just have to nail two runs. It is so hard in slalom but I am consistent at the moment.â€
Such is the closeness of the points on the Europa Cup circuit; Ryding was just out of the top 15 ranked racers (on Europa Cup points, not FIS points) in Obereggen. With Lars Elton suffering a bad back, this pushed Ryding back into the top 15, he started 13. Had Elton been fit, Ryding would have dropped down to around bib 25. This would have made his task that much harder despite the piste being in near perfect conditions.
Ryding is leading the way for the menâ€™s team this winter. What does he feel about the support coming from back in the UK? â€œA lot of people know me from the dry slopes and I have got quite a big following from that which is good and that is where I learnt to ski. I would love more people to be doing that but it does not seem to be the way it is going. After Levi, the amount of support on Facebook and Twitter was amazing. The more I do that then the more it will put skiing back on the map.â€
With the improved performances, Ryding is still as grateful as ever for the support offered by C-Tec and Vital, without whom he would not be able to complete his season.
Britain has a rich heritage of slalom skiers and five years ago Ryding started off his career in the shadow of Alain Baxter. How much did he learn from Alain and also Noel?Â â€œA huge amount. That year I did with Alain; I was in awe that I was skiing with Alain Baxter. Alain taught me so much about skiing and then Noel taught me a lot off the slope: About rankings and where I was. This all made me realize that I have to work at it, they had put everything that they had into it and if I want to be as good as they are, I will have to do the same.â€
Does he feel that the time will come when he as to impart the same info onto the younger guys? â€œ I have also learnt a lot from the guys on the team: I learnt so much from Jai Geyer on the fitness side of things; the dedication on the fitness side and the sacrifices you have to make.â€
Where was the turning point for Ryding? Despite having qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics, things clicked for Ryding at the Games: â€œI might have qualified for the Games,â€ he looks back, â€œbut I am a long way off. I might have 15 points but it is not 15 points from an easy FIS race. It is a hell of a different level. I felt I really have to get strong here and put in some hours. Something clicked and then Tristan drove me like a workhorse. It is still coming but there is still work to do.
â€œYou can tell the young guys that but until that light flicks on in your head,â€ he continues, â€œuntil you realize yourself, that is when you start doing something. The young guys have to realize this themselves.â€
With the lucks of Jack Gower coming through and scoring 20-point GS results, how does Ryding feel about this? â€œI feel good for the guy, he is young, he is coming through and he is doing it. He is a lot further up the line than I was at that age. He has great support and he works like crazy. I am sure that if he keeps it up, he will be very successful. But you never know in skiing, there is a new GS ski that everyone has to use but you will not see me on them!â€
So does this mean that Ryding will remain just in the Slalom discipline? â€œI will do a few but slalom is where it is,â€ he smiles. â€œI say I will do some GS at the end of this year, but to be honest I donâ€™t think that I will,â€ again more laughter. He did try skiing GS late last season but when he put his slalom skis on after he felt the slalom skis were like snow blades!
Life on the World Cup is not all glitz and glamour. Despite breaking into the top echelons of the sport, Ryding is still his own serviceman. Before he races in Zagreb in early January, he will have competed in the Europa Cup slaloms in Chamonix. The night before the Zagreb race he will have to do his own skis. The support he gets from Dynastar, his ski supplier, is improving but this does not stretch to a ski tech as yet. â€œDynastar gave me the skis that I wanted this year, which was great. Nobody else skis the model that I ski, so I was very lucky in that sense. The support I get from Dynastar in the UK is fantastic.â€
The rapport with Tristan is great as well. Tristan Glasse Davies is an ex racer himself and knows the needs and requirements a racer has. â€œI will do my skis, wax them and brush them and then in the morning Tristan will take them up the hill and sort them out on the hill. He is very good at knowing what I like. The skis will be there and I will not have to worry about them. It is great that even with silly things like having to unstrap the skis, I know they will be there. I can get to the start; give him what I do not want. Sometimes he will stay at the start and fire me out of the start, other times he will go down the course to give me a course report.â€
With the target to get down to 7 or 8 points, is the difference between getting that result and now, a serviceman? In typical relaxed and hesitant style, Ryding says â€œI can do my skis alright but it is more â€™Have I done my skis right for these conditions?â€™ where a serviceman will know what is right.â€ The right man to do the skis does not come cheap and for a sponsor to come on board for this would cost the best part of Â£50,000 a year. When small margins make the difference between success and failure, this is a requirement that could make the difference. With the menâ€™s speed team training with the Americans without the budget for their own coach, times are hard for the GB team.
It is also the little things that a serviceman can help with. The day before Obereggen, Ryding broke a binding and was not sure if the skis made the technical specifications. â€œI was pretty sure they were fine,â€ he said, â€œbut this is something that the serviceman could look after and take the worry away from me!â€
Ryding knows that the result in Obereggen is â€œanother reminder that I can do it. If you know you are skiing well and not getting the results then you start to doubt yourself and it is not much fun. Top 15 in a Europa Cup and you know you are skiing well, especially in slalom. I was looking at the start list and I think there are only two or three guys in the top 15 who have not scored World Cup points this year and there have only been two races. You have to be skiing fast to get in there, there are so many guys.â€
And then in the next race Ryding placed 4thâ€¦.