Pinturault, Mancuso find victory in Moscow city race
MOSCOW, Russia – The trips up and down the giant ramp became almost dizzying throughout the night at the World Cup city event in Moscow on Tuesday but one after another the dominant parallel masters became clear and after the very last lightning quick run down the 18-gate course, Alexis Pinturault and Julia Mancuso were the winners.
A totally different format for alpine World Cup athletes, the excitement of the Moscow race became clear from the start. Racers, standing side by side, bounced up and down in the start gate before tipping back and launching out of the gate. Throughout the night, a few athletes were slammed in the legs with the start gate, thrown sideways, skied through gate panels and charged into the pads after crossing the finish line.
German Felix Neureuther was the man to go up against Pinturault in the Big Final and the two were a tight match, taking turns in the lead across the finish but it was the Frenchman who pulled ahead, landing the very first victory of his World Cup career. Thus, Neureuther ended up second and, after beating Austrian Romed Baumann in the small final, Sweden’s Andre Myhrer rounded out the podium in third.
The women’s final heats proved equally exciting, as Mancuso ended up taking down Austrian Michaela Kirchgasser in both runs of the Big Final as the Austrian took second place and keeping up the ongoing rivalry, Lindsey Vonn one-upped Maria Hoefl-Riesch in the Small Final to round out the ladies podium.
Ironically, neither Pinturault nor Mancuso had planned on finishing on the podium on Tuesday, much less win the race.
“My first training was just before the race,” said Pinturault, whose best event is giant slalom, in which he has had two World Cup second places and also a second place in super-combined a couple of weeks ago in Chamonix. “I was hoping to get experience and learn for the next time, so I’m really surprised and happy to win.”
Mancuso has had the city race in the back of her mind all season but slalom is her weakest World Cup discipline, so she was equally enthralled with the victory.
“Does this count as slalom? Does it mean I have a slalom win?” she asked after the race. “I never thought I could win. It’s a good example of how if you fight hard enough, you can do it.”
Launching out of the start gate correctly seems to be the secret to success in the city events.
“The slalom is very short, it is maybe 20 seconds. When you take a good start, you can make a good run,” Pinturault said, adding that he wouldn’t mind having several more parallel events, now that he appears to have instantly gotten the hang of them. “It’s special because you make a start, you take a run, you have to go up again and again and again. It’s really quick between the runs.”
Anyone who takes a look at the racers’ stance around the gates in Moscow can see the positioning is much more similar to giant slalom than slalom. Athletes say the parallel aspect provides an adrenaline surge but Mancuso said it was important to block out what the athlete next door was doing.
“It’s half mental, half physical,” she said. “You have to get out of the start quick and not be distracted by who you’re racing.”
Mancuso was the most consistent racer all night. From the first round to the Big Final, the only lady to beat her in a run was Nicole Hosp in one of the quarterfinal runs. Otherwise Mancuso handily beat speed specialist Daniela Merighetti in both first runs, then took Vonn down in both runs of the semifinals and did the same with Kirchgasser in the finale.
Pinturault very easily beat Italian Christof Innherhofer in the first round, slipped behind Marcel Hirscher in the first run of the quarterfinals, but then the Austrian tech star crashed in the second run of the quarters and Pinturault moved ahead. In the semifinal round, Austrian speed specialist Romed Baumann threw down some very promising tight turns and inched ahead in the first run by 0.02 seconds, but Pinturault took him down by a couple of tenths in the second run of the semis.
Like Mancuso, Neureuther only lost one run all night, but unfortunately for him it was to Pinturault by 0.17 seconds on his last trip down the course.
by Shauna Farnell