Hirscher on a roll, sweeps Bansko tech races
BANSKO, Bulgaria—Eight, that's the number of victories Marcel Hirscher has this season. He added one today, that's two days in a row. Giant slalom, check. Slalom, check. He's leading the GS title race after Saturday's win here, and now just 35 points behind injured Ivica Kostelic for the slalom hunt. But he's even closer to the overall now—only 18 points behind Kostelic.
He's so cool about it, not adding fuel to the fire regarding that question on everyone's mind, “You going to start pursuing the overall or what and get into some speed races?”
Breathing heavily after his speedy second slalom run, he said: “I don't know, at the moment I'm pretty tired. But we will see. Today I'm going to travel over to Moscow and I have things to do. I don't know if I'll race super G or not, it really doesn't matter to me.”
He just wants the technical event titles for now, and said he will decide whether to race super G after Moscow and to actually give the overall a shot. About the slalom title, he said: “It's so close, I can grab it and feel it, but there are many races left to go in the season.”
Can Hirscher be beat? The racers continue to try. Hirscher won the slalom today with a total time of 1 minute, 52.64 seconds. Andre Myhrer was 0.57 back in second. Of course it isn't a slalom this season without any drama. Mario Matt was announced the second place winner, but just before the flower ceremony, officials ruled that he had straddled a gate. Stefano Gross, already half way down the hill—skiing back to the hotel—got intercepted and snowmobiled up to the awards ceremony. He was 0.90 seconds behind Hirscher in the competition to secure his second career podium this season.
The competition for the podium was nonetheless tough today, like a round of musical chairs for the leader box. It started with American's Nolan Kasper—in the 20th position after the second run—he put down the second fastest time in the final run to place him in the leader box until Naoki Yuasa topped him. Then Fritz Dopfer jumped in the box, followed by Stefano Gross, and Mario Matt—but they all were to be usurped by Hirscher in the end.
“He's skiing very consistent at the moment,” Myhrer, who got is third 2nd place of the season today, said about Hirscher. “He's hard to beat, very stable. He's really pushing hard every time. You really need to have two clean runs, otherwise he will beat you.”
Nolan finished sixth, Yuasa fifth, Dopfer fourth.
The conditions turned from lowlight visibility this morning, as the sun cast a shadow on the Alberto Tomba track—a 215 meter vertical drop—to a course baking in the sun for the final run. Cooler morning temperatures went to outright warm afternoon conditions. The course held up, though. “They did a great job,” Myhrer said about the Bansko team of course workers.
The non-icy track does make for constant changes at each gate the racers said. Nothing is consistent. Most racers said they prefer injected courses. “Injected holds up better for everyone,” Kasper said, “and gives you something more to push on. If it's injected and gnarly, that's the best for me.”
Yet earlier in the day, Austrian Marc Girardelli, Bansko Ambassador and five-time overall World Cup champion said it's good to mix it up with natural courses. “It's not that icy as other resorts, but despite this, late numbers have a chance to place in front. We saw it yesterday with Marcel Mathis. I don't think it's the solution to make every course an ice rink which harms the joints of the racers. I think we need to go back a little to the natural snow conditions.”
Up next on the men's schedule is the Moscow City Race, which is Monday, The man to beat is Hirscher of course. “For the moment for sure, he is the best skier at least from the technical side,” Girardelli said. “It's interesting, he has a very aggressive technique. He has similarity with Jean-Baptiste Grange when he skied so strong a few years ago. You know, it can change, but now he is on the top and has a chance to win the World Cup."
By Vanessa Pierce