It was a war and friendly atmosphere in Val d’Isere for the first downhill training run of the 2016/17 World Cup season. The cancellation of the Men’s speed events in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek meant that the first speed events have been rescheduled to Val d’Isere. These are the replacement races for Beav

The last time Val d’Isere hosted a World Cup downhill was back in 2007. France’s Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin claimed a shock victory ahead of Canada’s Erik Guay and Manuel Osbourne-Paradis. Nine years on and both Canadians finished the training session on the O.K. piste comfortably within themselves they admitted. Osbourne-Paradis has just become a father for the second time and admitted he could have benefitted from a day or two training since seeing his new daughter come into the world at the weekend.

Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud set the fastest time of the day but for most of the athletes it was a benchmark and a good opportunity to get the feeling back on the longer skis. Jansrud felt he had skied a safe line without too many mistake but that others were talking of having made big errors. The main feedback from the course was that there was a distinct difference in speed between the top and bottom of the course because of the mixture of natural and artificial snow.

The training session was due to start at midday local time but was delayed due to a forerunner being injured. This meant the sunlight quickly faded at the bottom of the course, with many of the athletes complaining of flat light on the fastest parts of the course.

There were many racers coming back from injury for the first time since last season and even a few technical specialists on the start list. Only Marcel Hirscher of the tech crew attempted his training run and joked in the finish area that: “It is always fun to see how far you are behind the speed specialists.” The current overall leader was 75th out of 82 finishers.

Werner Heel two seasons ago finished third in a World Cup downhill at Kvitfell but was noticeably down the rankings during the first training session. The Italian finished 37th after training run one was concluded. This was a sign of how quickly form can change for any athlete at the top end of alpine skiing.

On the other side, there were a few surprise performances with young skiers Mattia Casse and Blaise Giezendanner finishing in the top five. The first training run times don’t confirm who’s going to ski fast on race day but both young skiers gained confidence with their training performances. Giezendanner is an interesting character as his family name comes from Switzerland, his father is French and his mother English! After racing in Europa Cup races in Val d’Isere a few times over the last few seasons, fifth place in the first training run was a solid performance he felt. “Where most racers were trying to learn the course, I felt at home,” he admitted after the run.

After a few technical events already this season it was great to finally see the speed events underway on the World Cup circuit. Next downhill training session starts on the 1st December at 9:45 GMT.

Peter Davies