It may have been two years since his last World Cup win in the Slalom, but Mario Matt rode his luck and took the win, his 14th career win. With the likes of the Slalom World Champion, Marcel Hirscher, failing to qualify after making a number of mistakes and … last years winner Alexis Pinturault crashing out on the first run, 29 racers in total failed to make it down the first run. As a consequence of this high number of bail outs, the opportunity for the later numbers to make the flip was great, even if it did see a number of them skiing safe to ensure they scored World Cup points. Mathias Hargin took second and Patrick Thaler took third, just nudging French favourite, JB Grange off the podium.
With eight racers from outside the top thirty starters making the flip, some old names from the past were back in with a shout: Julien Cousineau, back from an extended period of injury, was back in the mix having placed ninth after the first run from a start number of 56, this being the best of the later numbers.
While Hirscher had the ignominy of having the slowest of all the first run times after an error laden run, Matt was sitting pretty at the top of the standings after the second run. Kranjska Gora in 2011 was the last time he had won a race on the World Cup and after having placed second in the opening slalom in Levi, this gave him an excellent opportunity to capture the red bib for the next race if he could score more than 21 points.
It was another Austrian, Wolfgang Hoerl who made his intentions clear after a strong second run to take the lead. He was soon deposed and with racers choosing between caution and attack, it was American David Chodounsky who grabbed the initiative to take the lead at the half way stage of the run. And there he stayed for a number of racers.
It was Sweden’s Mathias Hargin who stole the lead from him. Much was expected from the likes of Benni Raich but Hargin at one stage lead a three pronged attack by Sweden on the leaderboard. Thaler and Grange would eventually upset the proceedings before Mario Matt came down to win his 14th World Cup race and 39th podium.
After the race, Matt commented: â€œYou have to push your limits in order to win, and I did that, but I was still surprised how fast I was in the first run. I think today no one felt too confortable, but at least in the second run the first part felt really good so I canâ€™t complain. We trained in great conditions already this fall so thatâ€™s maybe why I am in good shape this early in the season. We also had a great last training session in St.Anton before coming here, it was on a steep slope and it was a good chance to get ready for the conditions we found on the Face de Bellevarde.â€
Mathias Hargin is another who has waited a long time since he was last on the podium, also two years. Hargin, who fought long and hard before succombing to David Ryding in the Europa Cup series last year, commented: â€œFeels really good to finally get another podium. It has been two years since my podiums in Zagreb and Schladming and I have been fighting a lot these last two years. It feels great to capitalize on that! It gives me confidence for the future knowing that all the hard work is paying off.”
In a day that saw Matt become the oldest World Cup Slalom race winner, 36 year old Patrick Thaler gave hope to the older guys on the tour. Thaler was pushed off the Italian Team last year yet now has fought his way back on to the team, with the flexibility to have a say on his own programme.
No David Ryding on the start list here as he had been competing on the Europa Cup Tour.