The Alpine Combined in Wengen is fast producing trend bucking results. Last year three racers struck lucky to make the podium that no one thought would make the podium. This year Victor Muffat Jeandet produced a slalom run that saw him rocket up the rankings and take the win as the Downhillers almost capitulated voluntarily. Pavel Trikhichev took a surprise second with Peter Fill third just ahead of Kjetil Jansrud and Dominik Paris, all three separated by three hundredths of a second!
The downhill track was in great shape and produced some great performances from Vincent Kriechmayr and Hannes Reichelt, the fastest two on the run. Kriechmayr laid out his intent in taking a chunk or time out of the rest of the field to lead the run by 0.59 from Reichelt. With Paris almost three quarters of a second back in third, this was a serious statement from the Austrian. With Matthias Mayer 1.12 back in eighth place, Kriechmayr had a healthy advantage. With Alexis Pinturault not racing, the winner of the Bormio Alpine Combined decided earlier in the season that he would skip the energy sapping Alpine Combined here to focus on the Olympics in less than a month. Muffat Jeandet was one of the leading slalom skiers in the field and scrapped into the top thirty on the downhill section.
With the organisers having debated whether to switch the two races around, the decision to keep to the original plan was vindicated as the fog held off long enough for the downhill section to be finished almost to plan.
What was not anticipated was the way the cloud affected the slalom course. While Berthold, third last year, also made the top thirty, he is not a great slalom skier. First Alexander Khoroshilov’s Russian training partner, Pavel Trikhichev grabbed the lead and then from a start number of four, Muffat Jeandet took the lead. With a deficit to Kriechmayr of over two and a half seconds, the Frenchman had a nervous wait in the finish to see if he would win.
With the snow getting warmer and slower, Muffat Jeandet was more and more secure. While the likes of Jansrud, Fill and Paris are accomplished racers, the slalom skills of the likes of Muffat Jeandet are vastly superior. The Frenchman used his opportunity to great effect in taking the race win. Muffat Jeandet was almost a second faster than Trikhichev and he was in turn almost half a second faster than the next best slalom time.
Opportunity knocked for the Russian. After the race he was asked how the drugs issue affecting the Russian team was affecting him and he replied that he would have expected to have been tested about five times this season but has been done eight, such is the intensity and focus on Russian athletes approaching the Olympics!
For Peter Fill this was a case of deja vu – Wengen was the first time he was on the podium with some of the big names at the time – Benni Riach included. Now, he admitted, “I am the old man on the podium!” What he would take to be on the podium again in 24 hours!