WENGEN, Switzerland — It was one surprise after another in the men’s World Cup alpine combined in Wengen, Switzerland, on Friday as the home crowd was treated to a Swiss winner. 22-year-old Niels Hintermann came out of nowhere with bib 51 to take the win with a combined time of 2:56.58 seconds. Joining Hintermann on the podium were two other outsiders as France’s Maxence Muzaton finished in second from bib 32 and Austria’s Frederic Berthold was third from bib 39, 0.26 and 0.35 seconds back, respectively.
With only two alpine combined races this season, Alexis Pinturault of France managed to secure the discipline globe with his 20th-place result combined with his victory in December.
The day started with the schedule reversed and slalom taking place first due to overnight snowfall and the projected forecast for the rest of the day. Another Swiss racer, Justin Murisier, had the early lead after the slalom run as Hinterman, Muzaton, and Berthold all sat more than three seconds back after their slalom runs in 23rd, 28th, and 22nd, respectively.
It was quite the downhill run in the afternoon as the three eventual podium finishers took advantage of a brief break in the weather to ski themselves onto the podium from seemingly impossible deficits after their slalom portion. After about the tenth starter in the downhill run, the snow began to worsen, and the track slowed to a point where World Cup downhill winners were coming down multiple seconds back of Hintermann, who was the eighth starter in the downhill portion.
For Hintermann, whose previous best World Cup finish was 21st in the 2016 Chamonix downhill, the day was something special, but the young Swiss recognized his stroke of luck to climb on top of the podium.
“I’m not that experienced in winning races, so I have no idea what’s upcoming now,” he explained in the finish. “I felt good during the slalom race, I really liked it. It was tough to drive because it was pretty steep and the rollers were pretty intense … (in the downhill) the weather seemed to make a little turn, lucky for me, after me it started snowing pretty heavy again and now I’m here winning my first World Cup.”
Muzaton admitted that the only reason he was racing the combined in Wengen was to get an extra run on the downhill track ahead of Saturday’s race.
“It’s an amazing day,” the Frenchman said. “I never expected to be on the podium at the end, but we make an outdoor sport and today, conditions were more in my turn, so I’m happy with that. My first goal this season was the downhill. I decided to make this alpine combined only to make some speed turns. It’s pretty amazing.”
For Austria’s Berthold, he also did not fancy his chances to start the day and was just as surprised as his podium-mates at the way the day turned out.
“At first, it was a very difficult slalom in the morning,” said Berthold. “I tried to do a solid run, and I finished 22nd and had a good number for the downhill. The conditions got always worse, and I can’t realize that it ended with me on the podium now.”
The lone American finisher was Bryce Bennett, who just missed the weather window in the downhill run, but walked away with a solid top-10 finish in tenth. The rest of the American contingent of Steven Nyman, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, and Jared Goldberg all did not finish the morning’s slalom portion.
“They did their best to get the race off, it’s definitely challenging conditions right now,” Bennet said after his race. “It started snowing pretty hard about after ten guys, and it definitely made the race interesting. I’m more comfortable with downhill, and you can kind of just do the downhill and see where you stand and then go into the slalom, but with slalom first, you definitely have to perform to get a better start position for the downhill. It’s a little bit more pressure to perform in slalom.”
Also of note was Croatian star and 2011 overall World Cup champion Ivica Kostelic announcing that Friday’s 22nd-place finish will be his last World Cup race. The Croatian has suffered tremendous knee pain in recent years and has flirted with retirement for several seasons before finally deciding to hang up his skis.
The men now race the Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen on Saturday and slalom on Sunday.
Fans can stay up to date on World Cup by downloading the U.S. Ski Team – Ski Racing app for iOS and Android.
- Nils Hintermann (SUI) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Maxence Muzaton (FRA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Frederic Berthold (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
- Valentin Giraud Moine (FRA) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Nils Mani (SUI) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Romed Baumann (AUT) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Justin Murisier (SUI) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
- Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Martin Cater (SLO) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Bryce Bennett (USA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|4||9||194542||GIRAUD MOINE Valentin||1992||FRA||2:26.96||+0.38||2.98||50.00|
|8||2||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||2:28.05||+1.47||11.53||32.00|
|28||48||512031||BARANDUN Gian Luca||1994||SUI||2:30.48||+3.90||30.60||3.00|
|38||44||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||2:34.66||+8.08||63.39|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 1st run|