50 years world cup: Vitranc Pokal – an event for top champions
Mostly organized in March in past winters, the “Vitranc Pokal” event at Kranjska Gora represents one of the most exciting highlights of the last part of the World Cup season prior to the Finals – as well as a spectacular battlefield for some of the best technical skiers on the tour.
The list of winners say it by itself –the great all-time champions on the World Cup tour like to excel on the challenging and spectacular ‘Podkoren’ course which hosts one of the toughest giant slalom ‘Classics’ of the season along Adelboden and Alta Badia. Interestingly enough, several leading giant slalom or slalom racers reached their first podium on that slope – including top stars as Marcel Hirscher in 2008 or Alexis Pinturault in 2011, a few months only after having scored his first top-10 result in a Super-G at Hinterstoder.
Together with USA’s Ted Ligety, the six-time winner here and the only GS specialist along Alberto Tomba to have achieved the prestigious ‘hat-trick’ in the three giant slalom ‘Classics’ during the same season, Benjamain Raich and Bode Miller, Hirscher and Pinturault clearly dominated the giant slalom races in the past fifteen years! Only Switzerland’s Carlo Janka was able to beat that group of impressive athletes back in 2011…
International competitions (called FIS I-A in the old days) regularly took place since the early 1960s nearby that popular Slovenian resort ideally situated nearby the Austrian and Italian boarded. Even before the start of the World Cup in 1967, many leading teams competed in that event. Famous leaders as France’s Jean Claude Killy and Guy Perillat or Austria’s Karl Schranz fought there for victory in that time.
After a positive ‘Première’ in March 1968 with a slalom won by Frenchman Patrick Russel, the newly created World Cup tour returned again there in 1969 for two races – Kranjska Gora became an established stage on the main circuit a few years later.
The demanding slopes and the huge crowds attending the races in the mid 1970s in the heydays of Sweden’s Skiing Legend Ingemar Stenmark – who was using Elan skis produced in nearby Bled – helped the event run by a group of passionate organizers lead by Woytek Budinek to soon become a very popular stop on the international scene.
The spectators were of course absolutely enchanted by the first victory of one of their compatriots Bojan Krizay in slalom in 1982, three years before the amazing Rok Petrovic in December 1985.
In January 1999, Jure Kosir also enjoyed a similar great moment – and Ivica Kostelic certainly nearly felt at home in January 2003 when he won the slalom the same day than his sister Janica triumphed at Bormio !
Last season, Marcel Hirscher only became the second racer after Ingemar Stenmark in the late 1970s to celebrate back-to-back wins in giant slalom and slalom in that event to secure his 5th overall World Cup title. The double World Champion at St. Moritz certainly aims to repeat that feat after taking a well deserved break during the last two weeks.