Marcel Hirscher overcomes deficit to win WCup GS
VAL D’ISERE, France (AP) — Two-time defending World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher limited his celebrations Saturday after dominating the treacherous Stade Olympique de Bellevarde course to win a giant slalom race.
The Austrian produced a superb second run to win his third career giant slalom race and fourth overall at Val d’Isere. However, Hirscher was disappointed that Ted Ligety did not finish. The American, seeking his fourth straight win in GS, made an uncharacteristic technical error and was among several racers to ski out and failed to qualify for the second run for the first time in nearly five years.
Hirscher would prefer to measure his performance against Ligety’s to see where he stands in GS terms.
“It’s a great victory for sure. But we don’t know where we really are right now,” Hirscher said. “Was it a really good run from us or is Ted skiing better than the rest of the world right now? That’s the question.”
It was Hirscher’s second win of the season after his slalom victory at Levi, Finland, and fourth podium from five races so far. His Val d’Isere record is superb, and he will go for his eighth career podium at the French Alpine resort in Sunday’s slalom.
“I’m not the heaviest, largest guy in the World Cup. For me it’s easier to get the speed if it’s steep,” Hirscher said. “I think it’s the steepest of the World Cup tour. I don’t think I’ve ever skied really bad here.”
With little snowfall in the past couple of weeks, the course was even more difficult.
“It was definitely the toughest slope preparation Val d’Isere has ever done,” Hirscher said. “Normally it is a bit colder and the slope is not injected with so much water, so it is a kind of ice skating place.”
Hirscher was third after the first run, 0.41 seconds behind Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, but finished 0.76 seconds ahead of Thomas Fanara of France and 1.09 clear of Germany’s Stefan Luitz.
The Bellevarde course lived up to its tough reputation as Ligety, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal and Bode Miller of the United States failed to finish their first runs.
Miller got his skis tangled near the bottom and tumbled over.
U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said Miller was unlucky.
“Today he got his outside ski caught right at the initiation of the turn in the flat light. Those things can kind of happen,” Rearick said. “I was proud of the effort he put in today and the way he approached the hill.”
Both Miller and Ligety will take part in Sunday’s slalom.
“Looking forward to it,” Rearick said. “Get some revenge on Val d’Isere.”
The 24-year-old Hirscher won the same race at Val d’Isere last year and also finished third in the slalom.
“I have to train pretty early in the morning,” he said. “I know exactly what I have to do tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.”
His winning margin would have been even larger, but he made a slight error halfway down as he veered to the left before managing to straighten his skis.
The pressure was on Pinturault to respond and he started well enough, .28 back on first split, but lost speed at the bottom to finish fourth.
Ligety won the GS at Soelden, Austria, and Beaver Creek, Colorado but ended up missing a gate turning in from the left side, going down on his hip and out of a first run for the first time since February 2009 at Sestriere, Italy.
“It’s been a few years. But I’ve had a bunch of races where (on) second runs I went out,” the 29-year-old Ligety said. “Just a little bit (of) bad luck on my part today.”
The four-time defending World Cup GS champion does not count the Bellevarde among his favorite courses.
“It’s always super, super bumpy and miserable to ski so I wasn’t surprised by that at all,” Ligety said.
Svindal, an Olympic bronze medalist in the discipline, lost his balance approaching a gate from the right, missed the next gate and almost toppled over as his right foot lifted off the ground.
Both of Luitz’s World Cup podiums have been at Val d’Isere. The 21-year-old German was second last year, before facing a cruciate knee ligament injury in February.
“To be on the podium 10 months after an operation is unexpected, it’s a great comeback,” Luitz said.