Dave Ryding ended a hugely impressive 2016 with a career second best result on the World Cup. 12th place included taking the lead in the second run after French star, Julien Lizaroux had posted a great second run time. But watching in the finish as the second run unfolded and Ryding knew that a tenth of a second faster and he would have been challenging his career best result scored in Levi in November, 6th. What might have been! Henrik Kristoffersen took the race win ahead of Marcel Hirscher with Stefano Gross using home snow support to grab third place ahead of Manny Moelgg and Andre Myhrer.
For the British fans, this was all about Dave Ryding.
The first run he was where he wanted to be, “not too far out. I just have to go in and refocus now,” he explained. When it came to the second run Ryding said “I pulled one out of the bag there. Minimal mistakes which is probably one of the first runs this season that I have not shanked it.” From watching the guys before him he learnt from their mistakes and “knew I had to go for it or I would get whooped. Across the middle I had this awesome four gates and I knew I had to keep it going.” But when he saw the green light, this was when his gloves were launched!
As racers came down and he dropped a place or two, his reaction was typical Ryding “I should have been better!”
Ryding came up through the dry slopes and did not start his FIS racing career until April 2002 when he was 18. It was a race that was won by Noel Baxter, then one of the leading British racers on the World scene. Baxter scored a 35 FIS point result in winning the race while Ryding, on the England team due to his plastic slope prowess, finished in 49th place, just behind David Hatcher (another still racing on the dry slope scene). Ryding had started 102, Hatcher 120. Kenny Morton, ski tech to Alex Tilley was in the same race (37th) as was Sandro Viletta who is the current Super Combined Olympic Champion (16th). Click here for the full results
Since then Ryding has gone on to win the British Slalom title on seven times, including the last four, plus a Giant Slalom title. But none of this has come easy or by just being there. Ryding does not head to the Southern Hemisphere to train in the summer any more. Instead he spends his time perfecting each turn to make it 100% right when the summer ends and the time is right to hit the hills. Indoor venues across Europe are accustomed to Ryding doing loops upon more loops in search of perfection. Young racers could learn from his dedication and commitment.
Tristan Glasse Davies explained after the race in Madonna that he has never met such an athlete that can focus on the most minute detail to get perfection. He works so hard to make sure that when he hits the slopes like Madonna, one of the steepest on the World Cup, he can accelerate down the steep pitch where others are hanging on for dear life. This was the difference between Ryding and many of the other racers around him on the second run in Madonna and also in Levi earlier in the season.
But is a twelfth and a sixth enough for his coach? Glasse Davies was frustrated that small hesitancies on both courses had cost Ryding higher positions. A podium was definitely on the cards in Levi, Glasse Davies, his coach of six years now, felt. In Madonna, Ryding was a tenth of a second away from finishing 8th.
Ryding watched most of the racers before him on the second run. He knew he had to get in the top fifteen for the second run to benefit from the TV break and the course preparation. He finished 15th and was first down the clean course. “I knew I had to make the most of this situation,” he explained after the second run.
As the World Cup departed for the Christmas break, Ryding sits in joint eighth on the World Cup Slalom tour alongside another Kandahar racer, Daniel Yule. Yule races for Switzerland having been brought up there. Both racers have scored points in every round so far. In 2000 – 2001, Alain Baxter was one of only two racers to achieve a points score in every round. What price for Ryding to emulate his hero in doing this?
On the all important World Cup Start List that is used for the start list on the World Cup, Ryding is now in joint 18th with JB Grange. To move into the top 15, he needs another 43 points. A tall order but not something beyond him.
January is a brutal month of Slalom racing: Zagreb, Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbuehel and Schladming. It was in Kitzbuehel last year that Ryding was leading the race on the split midway down the second run before crashing out, the last time he failed to finish a World Cup race.
If we think in Britain Ryding is something special, even the Austrian media are sitting up and taking notice. They took Alain Baxter to their hearts and they are now waking up to this guy from Pendle who learnt to ski on dry slopes and has started to teach them a thing or two.
Last word though goes to Ryding: “If I can do what I do, it goes to show that there is no reason why other British racers cannot focus and push on!”
Racer Ready were the only British media in Madonna di Campiglio for this race and normally race reports are only available to subscribers. In the spirit of Christmas we wish you all a festive read.
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