Gagnon grabs combined victory in Soldeu

28 February 2016 16:57
Marie-Michele Gagnon - Soldeu/El Tarter 2016
Marie-Michele Gagnon - Soldeu/El Tarter 2016 -
Agence Zoom

Soldeu/El Tarter, Andorra - Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon skied to her first victory of the season at today’s Audi FIS World Cup alpine combined race in Soldeu to conclude the weekend of races in the Andorran resort. Gagnon topped Wendy Holdener (SUI) and Anne-Sophie Barthet (FRA) by 0.20 and 0.61 seconds, respectively.

It was Gagnon’s second career victory, the first also coming in the combined in 2014 in Zauchensee. Since then, she earned just one other podium place, third place in the Crans-Montana slalom this season.

“I wasn’t expecting a win,” Gagnon said. “I was surprised. I was hoping for a podium. That’s always a good result, and I knew that I was skiing strong. My super-G was pretty good yesterday. I started 52 and came 23rd. For me, I was pretty happy with that. And today, I was able to put down a pretty solid run in the super G and also, my confidence is good with slalom. After two weekends ago, I had my first podium in like four years in slalom, so it’s really good. Just having that confidence moving into alpine combined where both of the races were kind of like perfect snow, I would say. It was just really a good day, I guess."

Holdener has been on a roll lately, she earned her first career victory on Tuesday evening at the city event in Stockholm and followed up today with the second place finish.

“For sure, it’s my best week in ski racing,” Holdener confessed. “Today, I had a good super-G. It wasn’t perfect, but it was really good for me. The slalom was 'so la la'. It wasn’t my best skiing, but I’m happy with today.”

“I like the speed disciplines since I was a little child," the 22-year-old continued. "But for now, I have to get better in GS and after that maybe I have more time for speed disciplines, but at the moment, I like the alpine combined.”

But perhaps the most compelling story line of the day, was the amazingly quick return of American Lindsey Vonn, who had to be evacuated from the course after a mild crash yesterday, but returned in a big way today, laying down the fastest time in the super-G.

Sitting in pole position for the second run, Vonn saw her main competition for the Overall World Cup, Lara Gut (SUI) miss a gate, and a golden opportunity, to gain valuable World Cup points in the tight battle. Knowing she would keep the Overall lead, Vonn skied a conservative slalom and earned 13th place, good for an additional 20 points in the World Cup standings, building her lead over Gut to 28 points.

Gut was one of seven racers in the top 30 after the super-G not to finish the slalom portion of the race. Several racers on the DNF list struggled on the upper portion of the slalom course.

Ironically, it was perhaps the first alpine combined race of the season that laid the groundwork for the current hunt for the Overall title as Gut topped Vonn in Val d’Isere by 0.01 seconds in the first combined race this year. In the second outing, both were well out of podium range today, but still stole the show.

In the alpine combined standings, Gagnon, Gut und Vonn are tied for first place with 100 points. Holdener sits in fourth with 98 points. With one more alpine combined race remaining, the battle for the crystal globe will be fascinating.

Also earning a lot of credit for their efforts, was the Organising Committee in Soldeu, which battled touch weather conditions all weekend and still hosted two successful races.

The ladies’ tour rolls on with a pair of technical races in Jasna (SVK) next weekend. A giant slalom and slalom are on the schedule.

For complete results, click here.