Pinturault takes the first win of the season in Sölden's GS
On Sunday, the men took over the Rettenbach Glacier in Sölden for their 2016/17 season opener. After a thrilling second run, Alexis Pinturault earned the win with a margin of 0.70 over second-placed Marcel Hirscher. Germany’s Felix Neureuther rounded out the podium 1.37 seconds off the pace.
Slightly changing light conditions marked the first part of the second run, and some athletes were able to take advantage of this and laid down fast runs. Benedikt Staubitzer (GER) for example, qualified for second run by a narrow margin before ending 12th of the final standings and Luca De Alprandini (ITA) stayed in the leaderbox until the five-times World Champion Ted Ligety took over the lead. But even though Ligety had an impressive pace in the second run, which is promising for the future as he’s just coming back after he tore his ACL in January, he couldn’t completely keep up with the fastest racers of the day and finished 5th.
Alexis Pinturault already proved it last season, and he will be one of the very best GS-racers this season again. He came back strong from the summer break, and won both runs to end the race with a 0.70 second lead over his closest contender Marcel Hirscher. He grabbed his 16th World Cup win and set the tone for the season to come in the process.
"In the beginning, you never know where you are,” Pinturault said. “You never know if you are skiing fast or not and just after Soelden, you can see where you are more or less. One thing that is easy in skiing is that there is never strategy, you just have to push and push even harder for the second run."
The duel between Pinturault and Marcel Hirscher is going to be very interesting to follow this season. Challenged by Pinturault who was leading after the first run, the five-times Overall World Cup winner made a mistake in the middle of the second run. The great champion he is didn’t get destabilised by this incident, he pushed even harder at the bottom and was able to earn second place.
"I'm super happy because the pressure is definitely on my shoulders, especially at the first race of the season,” Hirscher said. “If I am skiing good, everything is fine, but if I am skiing bad, it is never fun so I am super happy and a lot of pressure has gone away.”
Germany’s Felix Neureuther can also be proud of his season start in Giant Slalom. The slalom ace skied strong and crossed the finish line 1.37 seconds off of Pinturault’s pace. After several years with chronical back pain, that prevented him to claim the absolute top spots on a regular basis in GS, this podium placement will give him lots of confidence for the season to come.
"For me, a perfect start to the season,” Neureuther said. “Being here on the podium is really something special for me, especially in giant slalom. I think I did two very solid runs today without too many mistakes. There's still some work ahead of us, Alexis and Marcel were the two dominating guys today so we'll try to close the gap in the next weeks.”
Sölden is kind of a prologue to the World Cup, as the racers are going on a two weeks break before the next World Cup race in Levi on 13th November 2016. After such an exciting Giant Slalom opener, we are excited to see what’s awaiting us in Slalom.