Hirscher reigns supreme in Val d'Isère
It was a wild finish in the men’s Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom race in Val d’Isere (FRA), but in the end it was a familiar name topping the field as Austrian Marcel Hirscher took his second straight giant slalom victory with an impressive 1.29 seconds margin of victory.
Hirscher smoothly conquered the challenging ‘Face de Bellevard’ course that left many of the top skiers searching for answers as they came away from today’s race empty handed. American Ted Ligety failed to make the second run, while two of the last five skiers in the second run suffered crashes.
Thomas Fanara (FRA), who was fourth after the first run, missed his chance to make the podium after a crash sent him sliding down several meters before he could stop. Henrik Kristoffersen, second after the first run, also saw his podium chances disappear after he crashed on the top portion of the course, catching his arm on a gate.
The two late DNF’s opened up the podium picture as France’s Victor Muffat-Jeandet earned his second straight podium sending the home crowd into a frenzy with his third place finish. It was his second straight top-three finish in the giant slalom after earning second place last week in Beaver Creek.
"Everything went really fast since Beaver Creek. It was my first giant slalom podium; today I claim one more in my home country. I don’t completely realize what it means yet, but I’m very happy and satisfied to see that all the hard work pays off. The course and the snow in Beaver Creek are completely different, so I’m happy I could finish on the podium here."
Finishing in second place was Felix Neureuther (GER), who was half a second off the pace after the first run and sitting in sixth place. But a very good effort on the second run let him slide into second place behind Hirscher. It was Neureuther’s first podium of the 2015-16 season.
"Tough race, tough conditions, second place for me is perfect. I had the feeling that it was good, but that it could have been better because my top section wasn't that good. I didn't push and I had quite a big mistake so I thought there was a lot of time in it. Marcel showed what's in there."
Hirscher has been on fire this season and today’s race was another demonstration of his consistency. Last year’s overall World Cup winner has been on the podium in all three of this season’s giant slalom races, including winning today in addition to last week’s victory in Beaver Creek. Hirscher now holds the Val d'Isere record with five total victories, four in the giant slalom and one slalom.
"What makes it special is definitely the terrain. It is for me the toughest GS in the whole season. Physically, it is as well really hard to stay on the line during all the gates. For me I won here my first GS race, my first slalom race, so it is not too bad in general to be here."
On the other end of the spectrum is Ted Ligety, who failed to qualify for the second run after a costly mistake midway down the course put him out of the top 40. The man nicknamed Mr. GS, is struggling in his signature discipline lately, with only one podium finish in his last six outings including a rare DNF in Beaver Creek last week.
Tomorrow the action will continue with the men’s slalom at 9:30 CET, where all eyes are sure to be on today’s top-two finishers, Hirscher and Neureuther as they will duel for the first time this season in their specialty, slalom.
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