MERIBEL, France – With the giant slalom title locked up last weekend in Kranjska Gora, today Marcel Hirscher had only the pressure of holding off Kjetil Jansrud to maintain the lead in the overall standings heading into tomorrow’s final event. He managed to do just that, finishing fourth ahead of Jansrud’s 11th place, the Norwegian’s best GS finish of the season. Hirscher increased his advantage to 60 points and essentially locked up the overall title as Jansrud is not expected to partake in the slalom.
The lack of drama led to an unusual GS podium. The combo of Hirscher, Ted Ligety, and Alexis Pinturault, who have dominated the discipline over the past three seasons finished fourth, sixth, and eighth in Saturday’s race. It was the first time since December of 2011 where there was a GS podium that did not feature one of those three. Henrik Kristoffersen took advantage of the opening run and skied to his first ever GS World Cup win over Fritz Dopfer and Thomas Fanara.
Overnight the clouds rolled in creating less than ideal conditions for the men. Chemicals were used on the soft snow, and the track appeared to hold up well throughout the race. Kristoffersen had no trouble on run one with bib 12 and skied aggressively and with strategy to go ahead of then-leader Dopfer. Run two was much of the same. The course was adjusted slightly to move away from the ruts, but overall it followed the same track — one that clearly suited Kristoffersen. The only change to the top three from the first run was Fanara moving up one spot as Leif Kristian Haugen, who sat in third, moved back to seventh overall.
Fanara thrilled the French fans when he came down and stole the lead away from Hirscher. It was his second-straight third-place finish in GS after taking the last step on the podium exactly one week ago in Kranjska Gora. Next up was Dopfer, who has begun to make a career out of second-place finishes. He managed to hold onto his advantage over Fanara and crossed the line with a 0.18-second advantage. All that stood between him and his first victory was the youngest guy in the race and one that had never won a GS World Cup in his career.
But if Kristoffersen was feeling any nerves or pressure it did not show. He immediately increased his small 0.08-second advantage from the opening run by the first interval and never looked back. He skied cleanly and aggressively in the challenging conditions that seemed to throw many of the favorites off of their game. By the time he came into view of the fans with only the final pitch left to ski it was clear the day was his. He ultimately crossed the line with a huge advantage of 0.79 seconds to take a wire-to-wire win and push Dopfer back to second yet again.
“It feels pretty amazing, especially to lead after the first run. That’s the first time I’ve done that in a World Cup (GS) race,” admitted Kristoffersen. “It was a good feeling crossing the finish line there.”
Kristoffersen has been on a bit of a tear as of late. Born in 1994, Kristoffersen was still a junior this season. He won two gold medals at the World Junior Championships in Hafjell, Norway, earlier in the month, to increase his record gold medal haul at World Juniors to six. He returned to the senior tour and proceeded to win his second slalom World Cup of the year last weekend in Slovenia. Then he came to Meribel and impressed everyone with his first GS victory, admitting that while the stakes are much higher in a World Cup, winning any race – even at the junior level – always helps with confidence.
“Maybe (it gave me) a little bit (of confidence). It’s a little bit different though to stand on a start of Junior World Championships than a World Cup,” said Kristoffersen. “It’s kind of a lot more pressure here, but … I’m skiing good at the moment so I’m pretty happy with that.”
The win in GS may have come as a surprise to many, but not to Kristoffersen who has never considered himself a slalom specialist. He hopes to use his maiden victory to propel him into next year with the confidence to be a consistent threat in both events.
“I think that it’s time now, or I hope that people are going to stop saying that I’m a slalom specialist because I’ve never felt like a slalom specialist,” said Kristoffersen. “I’ve always done equally as much GS as slalom so, yeah, that’s the way to go now.”
Dopfer and Fanara were able to finish the season strong with their second- and third-place results, respectively. Dopfer ended where he started the season in Soelden, with another second place. They were his only two GS podiums of the season. But with his consistency, he ended fourth overall in the GS standings. Fanara finished just behind Dopfer in fifth overall.
Hirscher, despite not winning the race, was still the man of the day. He admitted that after watching Jansrud ski the second-fastest second run that his nerves were high and all he wanted to do was make it down so that the overall title would be his.
“I think 99.9 percent it is done, but I want to say chapeau (hats off) to Kjetil Jansrud, he made an unbelievable job today in the GS, especially in the second run,” said Hirscher. “I was standing up there at the starting area of the second run and I got so nervous, so shaky in the knees and sweating so much.”
Despite his 60-point advantage in the overall standings, Hirscher will not breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of winning his fourth overall title in a row (a men’s record) until the start list for tomorrow’s slalom race is posted — with Jansrud’s name absent.
“I want to wait until the moment when the team captains meeting is over and let’s have a look to see if Kjetil is starting or not … it is a tough, tough season that is coming to an end I think,” said Hirscher.
But for today he can bask in the glory of his GS globe, his first since 2012, the last season with the old ski radius. After the rule change, Hirscher admittedly struggled to keep up with Ligety — until this season. He came out in Soelden on fire and never really let off the gas. He won race after race by huge margins and ended the season with five GS wins, a second, a third, and a fourth, to take the title by 203 points over Pinturault. Ligety, who had won both GS globes with the new skis, finished third in the standings, 228 points behind.
“Well it is a really big moment for me as well as for me team and all the people around me. After this long, long wait it took us to get closer to Ted Ligety,” said Hirscher of his GS globe. “I’m mean he was dominating the last couple of years in GS, but I don’t know if some of you remember before the material changing rules from FIS, I was the last globe winner on the old skis. So as I said already, it was so much work to get faster and closer to Ted Ligety, and I want to say thank you to the people around me as well as the whole team because that was not an easy step to get in the first position.”
For Ligety it was a season of ups and downs. He remained the world champion in GS for the third consecutive time, but his only other victory of the season was on the same hill in Beaver Creek in December. His ability to arc through tough sections and generate more speed than his competitors was inconsistent and did not benefit him in the varying snow conditions that were present on the World Cup tour this winter. After winning five of the previous seven GS globes, Ligety will go into the offseason hoping to regain his confidence and challenge Hirscher for the globe yet again in 2015-16. The only other American in the race, Tim Jitloff, finished 19th, and ended up 17th in the overall GS standings on the year.
The final event of the season starts tomorrow with the men’s slalom at 9 a.m. CET. Felix Neureuther currently leads the standings over Hirscher by 55 points, 569-514.
View more race photos here.
By Hank McKee
- Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/
- Fanara, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Ligety, Head/Head/Head
- Haugen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
- Nani, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
- Simoncelli, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Meribel, France, March 21, 2015:
- It is the 37th of 38 races on the men’s World Cup calendar … the eighth of eight GS’s. … It is the 10th World Cup race hosted at Meribel. … The second GS (the first won by Jean-Claude Killy in 1968).
- It is the fourth career World Cup win for Henrik Kristoffersen … his first in GS. … It is his third win of the season and second of the month. … The winning margin is .79 of a second. … Top three finishers are within the same second.
- It is the eighth career World Cup podium placing for Fritz Dopfer, his fourth in GS. … He is without a win. … It is his fifth second-place finish this season including the slalom silver medal at World Championships.
- It is the eighth career World Cup podium for Thomas Fanara, all of them in GS. … He is without a win. … It is his third podium of the season and second of the month.
- It is the ninth top six of the season for Ted Ligety. … his seventh in GS.
- Marcel Hirscher (fourth in race) holds the lead of the World Cup overall standings 1348-1288 over Kjetil Jansrud (11th in race). … Alexis Pinturault (eighth in race) is third with 956pts. … Ted Ligety (sixth in race) is top U.S. skier in 11th with 560pts.
- Hirscher wins the GS globe (five wins in eight races) 690-287 over Pinturault. … It is his second GS crown. … Ligety is third in GS with 462pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup standings 5650-3779 over France. … Italy is third with 3292pts. … The U.S. is seventh at 1910pts and Canada ninth with 755pts.
|7||11||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:09.26||1:09.52||2:18.78||+1.42||10.13|
|Did not finish 1st run|