Frenchman Alexis Pinturault not only won the alpine combined in Chamonix, France, on Friday, he also took home his first career World Cup discipline crystal globe, winning the race with a total time of 2:13.29 seconds. Following Pinturault in second was Italian Dominik Paris, 0.27 seconds back. Pinturault’s compatriot, Thomas Mermillod Blondin, managed to hang on for third place, 0.57 seconds off the winner’s pace.
Due to morning fog and upwards of 30 centimeters of fresh snow, organizers made the decision to flip the schedule, running the slalom run first and waiting until the afternoon to run the downhill portion as skies were expected to clear later in the day. Heavily overcast skies and flat light was the name of the game in the slalom run as Pinturault, wearing bib 2, took advantage of his early number and bested the field in the slalom run by 0.36 seconds, more than one full second ahead of his closest rivals in the combined standings.
After an additional one-hour delay before the downhill run, action got underway in the afternoon under snowy conditions. As the top 30 flip went on, skies slowly began to clear as the start order approached the fastest racers from the slalom run.
Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who was tied with Pinturault at the top of the combined standings heading into Friday’s race, looked to have set the time to beat after his downhill run but was ultimately too far out from his slalom leg to threaten for the win.
Paris skied into the lead with his downhill run and was able to fend off each subsequent challenger until Pinturault left the starting gate. Doing just enough to secure the victory, Pinturault crossed the finish to the delight of the home crowd and relished his first official combined discipline title. The Frenchman had finished atop the standings two other seasons when too few races were held to award a small globe.
“I didn’t realize right away that I won,” admitted Pinturault. “I saw the flags and heard the crowd screaming, but I couldn’t believe it. Finally, I saw the timing board and yes, I won. With the experience, you get to know where to attack and where to let go. In downhill, after a few racers there are marks on the line and you need to follow this track, it will always be faster. But the key was to be active in the turns and on the terrain.”
“For me, it’s very important,” he continued. “First, because I was leading in the first run and in the alpine combined standings, this means a lot of pressure, and then I had to ski a track that I’m not used to, I’m not a downhiller. So at the start I was really nervous, so the emotions in the finish were even stronger.”
Paris, who sat over one second behind Pinturault after the morning’s slalom run, knew he had to do something special if he was going to make up that much time on the Frenchman, especially after a mistake in his slalom run.
“I did a mistake in the slalom, so at the beginning I was a little big angry,” Paris said. “But in the end, I’m very happy with my result, especially with the downhill run. At the beginning of the season I would not have thought that I would be on an alpine combined podium, I only train slalom 6-8 times a season. But I saw there was a chance, I tried everything and pushed hard.”
For Mermillod Blondin, his podium secured him a runner-up spot in the overall combined standings. After a hard crash during training in Jeongseon, South Korea, he was unsure if he would even be fit enough to race today. Also, at the post-race flower ceremony, Mermillod Blondin proposed to his girlfriend in front of a cheering crowd. She said yes, of course.
“Physically, I’m not 100 percent due to my crash in Korea,” he explained. “My hip still hurts and I’m struggling to let go and ski high speed. And with the two catastrophic downhill training runs I had, the confidence was definitely not at the highest level. But thanks to a good bib number I could control the damage in the slalom and then I just risked it in the downhill. I was not even sure to race today, so this podium is very special for me.”
Leading the way for the Americans was Jared Goldberg in 20th, who charged from 37th after the slalom run with the sixth fastest downhill time. Just behind Goldberg in 21st was Bryce Bennett, who continued his string of scoring results this season but unfortunately missed being ranked inside the top 15 in combined by just one point – which would have qualified Bennett for the A Team – finishing the season ranked 16th in the world.
“From our side, we have not trained enough slalom, clearly,” explained men’s head coach Sasha Rearick. “Today was a very easy course set and it was about really just skiing with confidence to send it down the hill. They were all half-turns. In half-turn courses you have to be subtle and soft on each turn and we didn’t do that. In the downhill, I thought Jared and Bryce actually did a good job.”
Another notable performance came from the likes of Frenchman Blaise Giezendanner, who won the downhill run starting 39th and ultimately landed in 10th place at the end of the day. Croatian sensation Ivica Kostelic also managed his first top 10 of the season, finishing in ninth. The 2011 overall champion has been struggling with injury as of late, and is a welcome addition to the front page of the results sheet.
The combined season standings ended up with Pinturault in first with 210 points followed by Mermillod Blondin with 170. Jansrud managed to hold on to third place in the standings with 165 points. These standings are final as there are no more combined events scheduled this season.
Saturday’s downhill is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. CET barring any additional weather issues.
By Hank McKee
- Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
- Paris, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Mermillod Blondin, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Jansrud, Head/Head/Head
- Janka, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Theaux, Head/Head/Head
- Tonetti, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
- Kostelic, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Giezenndanner, Head/Head/Head
- Men’s World Cup alpine combined, Chamonix, France, Feb. 19, 2016. … It is the 30th of the men’s 44 race schedule. … The third of three combined races. … It is the 35th World Cup race Chamonix has hosted or co-hosted and the 12th World Cup combined. … It is the 2016 Kandahar, the first having been held at Chamonix in 1928. … The downhill leg was the second of the two runs.
- It is the 12th career World Cup win for Alexis Pinturault. … His fifth in combined. … It is his third win of the season and second in combined. … The winning margin is 0.27 of a second. … Top six are within the same second. … Top eight within two seconds.
- It is the 12th career World Cup podium for Dominik Paris … his first in combined. … His previous best in combined had been fifth on Jan. 15, at Wengen. … It is his second podium of the season, the other in DH at Jeongseon Feb. 6.
- It is the sixth career World Cup podium for Thomas Mermillod Blondin. … The fifth in combined. … It is his second podium of the season, the other at Kitzbuehel where he was third in combined.
- Local skier Blaise Giezendanner was the star of the day, starting 39th after the slalom leg and using his knowledge of the downhill track “La Verte des Houches” to strike into the top 10.
- It is the ninth trip into the top 20 of a World Cup for Jared Goldberg. … Bryce Bennett notched his fifth career World Cup scoring finish, all of them from this season. … It is the second career World Cup scoring result for Broderick Thompson, improving over his Wengen combined finish by one placing.
- None of the top three in the men’s World Cup overall standings participated in the race. … Marcel Hirscher leads 1045-957 over Henrik Kristoffersen with Aksel Lund Svindal third at 916pts.
- Pinturault leads the combined standings 220-170 over Mermillod Blondin and claims the small crystal globe in the discipline.. … Kjetil Jansrud is third with 165pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 3945-3580 over France. … Norway is third with 3476pts. … The U.S. is sixth at 1608 and Canada ninth at 456pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|3||3||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA||42.91||1:30.95||2:13.86||+0.57||4.92|
|11||17||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||45.03||1:30.42||2:15.45||+2.16||18.64|
|18||22||194542||GIRAUD MOINE Valentin||1992||FRA||46.01||1:30.48||2:16.49||+3.20||27.61|
|19||9||380292||ZRNCIC DIM Natko||1986||CRO||44.70||1:31.82||2:16.52||+3.23||27.87|
|50||58||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||48.64||1:33.25||2:21.89||+8.60||74.20|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 2nd run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|