Alexis Pinturault took another step to greatness with his second win of the season as he produced a good downhill run and then matched it with a devastating Slalom run to win the first Super Combined of the season. Such was the form of Twenty two year Pinturault, defending Super Combined World Cup Champion, Ivica Kostelic could only manage second with the hugely popular result of Carlo Janka taking Switzerland’s first men’s World Cup podium of the season infront of a crowd of 18,000 that watched the race on the hill.
The age old debate of whether the current format favours either the speed skiers or the slalom skiers was put to the test with a downhill run of under one minute fifty (longer than some of the full length Downhills) added to a slalom run (one run that is, not the two that a normal slalom has) made this a test not only of skill but also stamina. Starting the downhill just above the iconic Hundschopf jump, this took a mere 40 seconds off the course. With FIS careful that the event continues or it will also be lost to the Olympics, the Super Combined has a lot of adjusting to do to find itself.
With the issue of race suits raising its ugly head again, the media were asked to leave the team captains meeting this evening as the latest suit debate was looked into. Technology plays a huge part in the sport yet there are some that feel it plays too big a part but when the rewards are great, every hundredth counts and must be looked into – just ask the British Cycling team this and see their success. After his press conference for coming second, Ivica Kostelic when asked about the role of equipment commented that the more material becomes important in the sport, the more the sport suffers. With nations like Norway and Austria investing huge sums in the equipment, this is a story that will rumble on. Some rate a fast suit as being able to give an extra two seconds on a course the length of Wengen.
So with Christof Innerhofer taking the lead after the downhill section, ahead of Hannes Reichelt and Kjetil Jansrud. The Super Combi is interesting when you see the speed skiers struggling to move their skis with the speed and precision on the slalom boards. Yet going ninth, Pinturault, who had put his downhill skis on for the first time this season on the Tuesday after having been in injured in the summer, decided that he had nothing to lose and went for it. The 22 year old from Courchevel, admitted to having made a few mistakes in the downhill but still was happy with the run. The slalom run was vintage racing. He attacked and fought and at the end the reward was the lead by over one and a half seconds from Benni Raich.
“I realised after I saw how far in front of Benni I was that it had been good,” explained Pinturault, “but it was only after I saw how far in front of Kostelic I was, that I realised just how good it was,” he continued. Kostelic had come down straight after the frenchman and despite not winning was still content with his performance. Kostelic has been struggling with knee issues this season so this was a just reward he felt for not having taken the opportunity to have a operation to repair the problem with the flex in his knee.
With the expected challenge from the likes of Ligety (11th after downhill) and Jansrud (3rd after downhill) disappearing quicker than their skis coming off, not even Aksel Lund Svindal could replicate the form that won him the World Title in Garmisch. It has been a long road for Carlo Janka since the heady days of 2010 when he won everything in front of him. Illness, injury and other people doubting him were all there. What never left the Swiss was his own belief. Third place was a fantastic achievement for him and he hopes will give the rest of the Swiss team belief that they too can make the jump up to the podium. Certainly some of the young Swiss racers seen in Adelboden are giving the Swiss cause for hope for the future.
When Christof Innerhofer came down and placed 5th, Alexis Pinturault looked almost shocked to have claimed his third career World Cup win, his first Super Combined. From having first put skis on just prior to Soelden, this has been some turn around for him. A win in Val d’Isere has now been backed up with a win in the Super Combined. A more noted technical skier, the frenchman wants to be good across the board and after he had left, Ivica Kostelic gave him the upmost respect: “He isÂ on his way up, we will see a lot of him in the future. I like that he is developing as an all rounder, good to see, he has great potential. Hope he will stay healthy.”
With this being Kostelic’s 11th podium in Wengen, it is likely the young Frenchman will soon be adding to the Chair on the Wixi Chairlift that has his name on it for winning this race. Beat Feuz and Kostelic have their names on chairs for winning last year.
While Pinturault took the race win, marcel Hirscher must be rubbing his hands with glee as none of his rivals for the overall managed to make significant inroads to his points lead, now standing at 36 points over Aksel Lund Svindal. Svindal will be looking to overhaul this after the downhill on saturday before Hirscher looks for the pendulum to swing back on the Sunday in the Slalom.