On a day full of records, it was Ted Ligety who stood on the top step of the podium in Adelboden. This was the American’s fourth win of the season and the won that he has craved for so long. Ligety had won at all the other great Giant Slalom hills but this was the one hill that he really wanted to have his name on. Yet in one of the most exciting races of the season, he was just three gates away from having Marcel Hirscher give him some pay back for the crushing wins he has dished out this season. The record books will show that Ligety won with two Germans on the podium as well. Fritz Dopfer and Felix Neureuther placed on the podium with Ligety – this was the first time that the Germans had had two racers on the podium in a race outside of Germany ever, and the first time in Giant Slalom no matter what the location was.
With 15cm of new snow having fallen overnight, the Army got to work and created a masterpiece of a slope: Ligety commented after the race that the organisers had done a magnificent job in getting the slope in such perfect conditions. Â A number of racers commented that the first run had been a little hard to find the rhythm on but when Hirscher and Ligety are in the gladiatorial form that they show, you are always going to be struggling. These two racers put on a masterclass and were a second to the good of the next man, Thomas Fanara, after the first run. Bright sunshine yet a cold air and the 28,000 crowd were treated to some home cheer as Marc Berthold just made the flip and Gino Cavieziel, in his first World Cup race, posted the 23rd best time. All this was after the Swiss had announced three young racers would make their debut and then had to pull one of them out as they realised that they had one too many racers in the race! For a nation suffering a complete crisis on the World Cup, this was almost farcical.
Marc Berthold lead the second run off and posted a decent time but not one that would stay at the top for long. With this the last Giant Slalom race before the World Championships, places are up for grabs at Schladming. For a nation like Austria, only a podium place gives the racer a chance of securing a ticket. Time was running out for the legend that is Benni Raich and when he came down from tenth after the first run and went into third, you could almost feel his head drop as he realised that time may have run out for him.
Next down was Felix Neureuther from Germany. The German team is on the rise at the moment and showing a huge amount of confidence. Â Neureuther is a slalom specialist but since the arrival of the new ski regulations, has taken to the faster discipline and started to be recognised in Giant Slalom as well.Â After the race, Neureuther said that “With the new GS skis, as a slalom skier you have to be so aggressive. For us slalom skiers it is a little more easy to ski with these. I thought it would be better for the speed skiers. From the first time I felt comfortable with them.”
Neureuther took the lead and this was heard at the top of the hill where his compatriot Dopfer was waiting. Dopfer admitted that he knew that Neureuther was in the lead.
Dopfer did not allow his compatriot to get too comfy in the leaders enclosure and immediately posted a faster combined time. The race was on. Â Blardone, a previous winner here skied out over the final roll; Kostelic looked like he was back to his imperious best but could not dislodge the Germans. Pinturault made a mistake as he tried to be too aggressive and this cost him time and then Svindal was not able to build on his promising first run.
With the need to attack and try to bridge the gap to Ligety and Hirscher, Thomas Fanara suffered the ignominy of making a mistake in twisting his body at the top and then seeing his ski flip off. with Fanara out the record books could start to be rewritten as Dopfer had made his first GS podium. The question now was could Neureuther stay on the podium as well for the first ever GS double podium placings?
Ligety admitted to having made a small mistake on the first run and was happy to be in touch with Hirscher in second place after the first run. Ligety does not like coming second and blasted his way down the second run. Where others looked for a smooth line, Ligety attacked, it was relentless. All the way down the times showed that he was up on the German in the finish.
The final pitch in Adelboden is legendary. Who can forget Daron Rahlves’ massive crash there in 2005. YouTube it if you have not seen it. The pitch is not for the feint hearted. Ligety looked tired and admitted it afterwards yet held it together to make the final few gates and take the lead.
If Ligety is Mr GS then Marcel Hirsscher is wanting his title back and will not give up the GS crown easily. Â Many thought that Ligety had done enough to win the race but Hirscher had other ideas. All the way down he posted faster time – at the last split the lead was over one second on Ligety. Surely he would banish the Ligety wins in Soelden and Alta Badia from the memory by handing out his own justice. “I have gifted Marcel some races in the past so maybe this is justice,” explained Ligety after he had seen Hirscher attack one gate too many on the final pitch and ski wide. The win was the Americans. Ligety was finally able to add victory in Adelboden to his already impressive CV. This was win number 15 of his career and tied him with wins in GS with Alberto Tomba – another record on a day of records! Hirscher dropped down to 16th with the error.
The win now gives Ligety a 125 point lead in the World Cup GS standings and brings him back up to third in the Overall, Hirscher still leads ahead of Svindal. With regards to the Overall, Ligety said after the race that this is still his goal as he has always wanted to be a complete skier and is looking forward to racing all the events in Wengen and Kitzbuehel before Schladming.