What a race! If FIS wanted an advert for great World Cup ski racing, then they could not have hoped for a better race: It had everything: Superb racing from the main man; his two closest rivals shrugging their shoulders in complete disbelief and then racers … from OUTSIDE the top thirty fighting their way into the big places and to cap it all, a racer from right at the back destroying the course to be in the mix to battle it out on the second run. So the names are not new but where they all started made a slight mockery of the FIS seeding system! American Ted Ligety won his fourth consecutive GS, the first man to do this in 22 years, with his teammate Bode Miller taking second from a start number of 31, his 76th career podium and a rather shell shocked Marcel Hirscher had to be content with third! And the man who came from the back was Carlo Janka, the 2010 Olympic Champion and 2010 Overall Winner, he placed sixth!
The weather may not have been kind but the fresh snow fall just added to the event. The start was delayed as they tried to clear the slopes but this just meant that for once going number 1 may not have been a good thing, Manny Moelgg had the role of course tester to play with bib number 1 on and while he was clear, it was not the fastest. With both Alexis Pinturault and Marcel Hirscher going down before Ligety on the first run, both put in good times. Good when compared to the rest, when compared to Ligety, rather average it looked. Hirscher could only shrug the shoulders in disbelief as he was over a second behind the American.
The gap between first and second at the end of the first run was 1.10 seconds but it was not to Hirscher, it was to the guy who had not raced last year, was new on to the regulation skis this season and was called Bode Miller. Miller said after the raceÂ “I told my technicians, I told the coaches, that I’m going today, there’s not going to be nothing held back, no reserves.”
If the delight and amazement of seeing Miller fight it into second after the first run was not enough to get the neutrals cheering, those that stayed around to the finish to see Carlo Janka make the return, were in for more joy. The 201o Olympic Giant Slalom Champion has been ill for much of the last two years and now is starting to be more like his old self: The fight and steely determination is there again. Janka had fought his way down to 11th place from a start number of 68, yes sixty eight!
And so on to the second run…
The course was little changed from the first run due to the geography of the land giving the course setters little option. Benni Raich was the first of the names to show his hand and took an early lead from having been in joint 20th spot, a three way tie at that! Young Italian Roberto Nani immediately bettered his time by a clear half a second and then stayed in the lead until Felix Neureuther came down from 15th after the first run.
Neureuther used his slalom skills to good advantage in changing weight and being quick on the skis but even he had no answer to the skill and dexterity of Janka when he came down. Svindal had been unable to dislodge Neureuther but still picked up a healthy number of points in the race for the Overall. As the race grew in tension and excitement, the young French racer Mathieu Faivre, 2010 World Junior Champion in GS, then took the lead as he searched for a career best result in the World Cup. Schoeghofer, Haugen and Fanara all failed to better the Frenchman’s time and Alexis Pinterault made to huge mistakes that ruled him out of the running but still kept him in second.
Three to go and this was what ski racing was all about!
The course was slowly deteriorating but these were three of the best skiers of the modern era.
Hirscher was first up and the Austrian was like a man on a mission. He was risking everything to eek out every hundredth of a second to post something for Miller and Ligety to go for. He wanted the win as well. But when he crossed the line he had that resigned look that said he did not think that it would be enough. But would it?
Miller has had a reputation in the past for putting his all into every run. He has claimed it is him against the mountain and if other racers ski faster than him then well done to them. This year he is back fitter, healthier and ready for one last crack at the races. Miller had an advantage of 17 hundredths over the Austrian at the start and used all his muscle and guile to keep himself on the course. One could be excused for asking if the American had waxed his boots as well to gain every hundredth! When you thought he had made a huge mistake to end his run, he found more strength to haul himself back on track and keep the Head skis running. He did this not once but twice and the cheers resonated all the way up the hill when he crossed the line – he was in the lead unbelievably!
One man separated Miller from an improbable win. That one man was Mr GS, Ted Ligety. That one man had a lead of 1.10 seconds and was in awesome form. That one man had won the last three Giant Slaloms on the World Cup. Ligety had been in this situation before and while he admitted afterwards that he could have attacked more on the second run, he was a little more cautious in his approach. It was beautiful to watch, learn and inwardly digest! This was poetry in motion for the watching masses. He carved, he was tight on the line and for any young racer, this was how to use the ski to get the maximum out of it.
Yet again Hirscher could only watch in disbelieve as he had put his all into the two runs and had been blown away, not just by one American but two this time!
This was Ligety’s 19th GS win, Miller’s 76th podium and now we all move on to Val d’Isere next week!