It’s that time of year again. Break out the insulated jackets and fire up those waxing irons because World Cup skiing returns with the traditional opening giant slalom races of the season in Soelden, Austria, this weekend. With the women taking on the Rettenbach on Saturday and the men following on Sunday, plenty of nail-biting action will be on tap as we will finally get to see how the men stack up on the new 30-meter radius GS skis.
Who will step up with Marcel Hirscher still on the mend? Will Alexis Pinturault repeat his performance from last year and take another win? Has Henrik Kristoffersen put his off-snow drama behind him? All those questions will soon be answered come Sunday morning.
Over the last two weeks the various national governing bodies have been announcing their starting lineups. Take a look below to see if your favorite racers made the cut.
The Austrian juggernaut will have to contend without the presence of six-time overall champion Hirscher as he is still recovering from a fractured ankle suffered during slalom training in August. Also absent from the Austrian lineup is veteran and six-time GS podium finisher Philipp Schoerghofer, who is nursing a bone bruise in his right knee. This leaves 2017 World Championship slalom silver medalist Manuel Feller, Rolland Leitinger, Marco Schwarz, Johannes Strolz, Marcel Mathis, Magnus Walch, Dominik Raschner, Stefan Brennsteiner, and Thomas Hettegger as the remaining Austrian starters.
The Attacking Vikings of Norway will bring six men to the start with superstar Aksel Lund Svindal choosing to sit out and prepare for the opening speed races in Lake Louise, Canada, and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde still recovering from a concussion. Headlining the Norwegian roster is slalom ace Henrik Kristoffersen along with World Championship GS bronze medalist Leif Kristian Haugen, speed powerhouse Kjetil Jansrud, and a trio of of up-and-comers in Rasmus Windingstad, Bjoernar Neteland, and Marcus Monsen rounding out the Norwegian starters.
The dominant French men’s GS team will put forward eight names on Sunday with Alexis Pinturault, Mathieu Faivre, and Victor Muffat-Jeandet as easy threats to the podium. After suffering a torn ACL last season, Thomas Fanara is set to make his return to the World Cup. Last season’s surprise winner in the Alta Badia parallel GS, Cyprien Sarrazin, will lead a trio of young athletes with Thibaut Favrot and Greg Galeotti also set to start for Les Bleus. Veteran racer Steve Missillier was expected to compete, but pulled out on Friday.
The Swiss were dealt a heavy blow earlier in the week when marque athlete Carlo Janka went down with a right knee injury. Still, the Swiss will start an impressive nine athletes on Sunday with Justin Murisier, Gino Rocco, Loi Meillard, Marco Odermatt, Elia Zurbriggen, Gilles Roulin, Reto Schmidiger, Thomas Tumler, and Pierre Bougnard all given the green light.
The Italian men will bring eight starters to Soelden on Sunday, headlined by wily veteran Manfred Moelgg and speed star Dominik Paris. Florian Eisath, Roberto Nani, Riccardo Tonetti, Simon Maurberger, Giovanni Borsotti, and Luca De Aliprandini also made the cut for the Italians.
Only sending four racers to the start, the lean German team will be led by veteran and new father Felix Neureuther with Stefan Luitz, Alexander Schmid, and Linus Strasser also set to make appearances.
For the Swedes, Matts Olson, Andre Myhrer, and Kristoffer Jakobsen are slated to make starts on Sunday.
Our neighbors to the north will also be entering three starters for the opener with the dynamic trio of Erik Read, Trevor Philp and Phil Brown set to take on the Rettenbach. Read enjoyed a breakout year last season with four top-10 World Cup finishes and both Philp and Brown have scored World Cup points in the past so don’t be surprised if a Canadian or two makes some big moves come race day.
The small Slovenian team will be represented by Zan Kranjec and Stefan Haladin.
Details on the U.S. Ski Team’s lineup can be found here.
Who are your top picks for race day in Soelden? Let us know in the comments below.