David Ryding has won the Europa Cup Slalom Series, the first British racer to do so. Ryding placed ninth in the race that was won by Jean Baptiste Grange with his closest rivals for the Overall Title undoing themselves on the second run. Wolfgang Hoerl took second in the race with Manuel Feller taking third after having won the first run.
On paper it looked an intriguing situation coming into the race, in reality when things are as tight as they were going into the last race, it was anything but easy. Dave Ryding knew that he had to put Swedish World Cup racer Mathias Hargin behind him if he was to overturn the 2 points separating the two of them. With World Junior Champion Manuel Feller on a charge as well, the permutations were endless as the last race unfolded. After the World Cup had had horrendous conditions with rain and soft snow affecting the outcome, Ryding drew number 2, Hargin 5 and Feller 4. Race day and sun with light fog was the order of the first run and then the sun came out in force to soften up the conditions.
Ryding had skied out of the World Cup race on the same hill the day before after sliding on his hip. The night before at the team captains meeting, his coach Tristan Glasse Davies had responded to the question ‘What number would he like for Ryding,’ with “Anything between 1 and 3.” With both races that Ryding has had number 1 in this season having been cancelled, Glasse Davies was happy with bib 2.
With the course deteriorating quickly on the first run for the World Cup, an early start was vital for a good run. The top was not his best run but he kept the speed going and then coming on to the flat before the final pitch, disaster: Ryding went bang on to his inside ski. Great races think on their feet and what happened next was a moment that saved his season. “I knew that I had to keep going as if Hargin came out, I had to score three points to win as long as Feller did not win,” explained Ryding. “I knew I had gone past the top gate of the verticale and so skied the verticale the wrong way but had lost all my speed for the flats.” The bottom of the run went well and then it was wait and see what happens. Ryding admitted after the race that he was nervous with so much having rested on this race. He was annoyed with the mistake but knew it was out of his hands now for the time being.
With Feller leading and Hargin in second, Ryding would have to wait to see how far down the field he would end up. With 77 racers taking to the start and the last racer having points of 28, there were some great skiers taking part. With fifteen racers to go he was in 28th and then went out to see Glasse Davies. As he walked out he slide down to 30th. If he stayed there he would start 1 for the second run, if he dropped one more place, he would be starting 31. When one of the last few racers came down and went 31st, the nerves frayed a little.
When the last racer came down, Ryding was still in the mix and would start 1 for the second run. “This was a get out of jail card,” reflected Ryding. Despite Feller and Hargin being at the top of the field and nearly four seconds ahead on the run, Ryding would have must better conditions when he went for the second run: He would have a clean course, the leaders would have a severely battered course that would have softened up.
“It was all or nothing for the second run,” reflected Ryding. It was game on. Inspecting the course Ryding was dialed in.
Going number 1 Ryding put his all into the course. There were a few errors but only little ones. At the bottom he had even negotiated the same type of gate that had been his undoing in the World Cup race successfully. The time was fast and now it was a case of wait and see how far up the leaderboard he could get. With three racers to go, Ryding had dropped down to 8th place. this was still a fantastic effort considering how bad things had looked in the morning. JB Grange pushed him down to ninth and then came Hargin. Hargin had nothing short of a mare of a run and dropped down to 24th spot at the time. The title was Ryding’s as the 73 points Feller had to better Ryding by was now impossible. When Feller dropped down to third, Ryding was 9th and the Europa Cup Champion.
Ryding did it the hard way but in his own words “I shanked the right run.” Wolfgang Hoerl, second in the race, commented to Glasse Davies between runs that he thought that Ryding’s plans were spot on. How right he was. Fastest second run for Ryding was the reward for going first. “I have been an early starter on second runs previously,” he explained, ” but have never won a run and this gives me the confidence to know that I have improved a lot this year.”
As the boss of Dynaster’s Europa Cup team congratulated Ryding, Glasse Davies rued what might have been had another few races not been cancelled: “It would have been great to make the 450 points,” he rued. Had Ryding made 450 points in the Slalom Europa Cup series, he would have been able to start 16 in all Europa Cup races next year. “I may have even started a few GS’s next year,” commented Ryding later!
Ryding is a quiet and thoughtful man. Sitting in the racers area after the race, it started to sink in what he had achieved. At the start of the season he was worried about dropping out of the top 15, “then after Pozza I made the top seven, then I started making podiums and then I thought I could start winning races. i then started to challenge for the lead and well, wow,” as he said this he looked at the trophy and the medal for the Series winner of the Europa Cup Slalom Series. he may not have won a race but this was reward for the consistency and endeavour. This is Britain’s first Europa Cup Slalom Champion.
During the two runs, a Croatian racer talked with Ryding about support and it is results like this that help the team search for more sponsors to augment the vital support that Delancey provide.
It is back onto the training slopes in the morning for Ryding and then off to defend his Slovenian Title, on the same hill before winding up in Meribel for the Delancey British Alpine Championships… as the Europa Cup Champion!
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