Anyone's game at brand-new SX World Cup in Idre (SWE)
Idre Fjall, SWE - After a two-week break from World Cup action in order to facilitate the return of ski cross action to the X Games in Aspen and to compensate for the postponed Arosa World Cup event, the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour is back on track this weekend at a brand-new venue for 2015/16 in Sweden’s Idre Fjall resort, with a pair of races slated for Saturday and Sunday.
After several successful seasons at Sweden’s Are resort, Idre has stepped in to become the new Scandinavian stop on the tour. And with Swedish skier Anna Holmlund dominating the 2015/16 ladies’ ski cross World Cup (and the FIS Freestyle overall rankings), and Victor Oehling Norberg still a consistent podium threat despite suffering some injury setbacks this season, the local crowd should have lots to cheer for during both of this weekend’s back-to-back races.
While the X Games is something of a different beast than a typical ski cross World Cup race, with six skiers per heat and a shorter, more variable course design, there is no taking away from the fact that the Canadian squad will be rolling out of Aspen and into Idre with a bit of swagger gained from their accomplishments.
On both the ladies’ and men’s side, Canada took two of three podium spots at the X Games, with Kelsey Serwa and Marielle Thompson going 1-2 in the ladies competition, and Brady Leman taking gold and Chris Delbosco claiming bronze in the men’s competition. Alizee Baron in third for the ladies and Bastien Midol in second for the men rounded out the respective podiums, making for a strong X Games experience for the French squad, as well.
GoPro Idre course preview
For Thompson and Leman especially the performance at the X Games was a continuation of some strong World Cup work, coming as it did on the backs of a win for Thompson and third-place finish (that was very nearly a win) for Leman on home soil at the last ski cross World Cup in Nakiska (CAN).
Despite this, Thompson - who has also been the victim of some injury troubles this season - and Leman both sit back of the World Cup lead. The aforementioned Holmlund, with four victories and seven podiums in eight events, has been nothing short of incredible this season, and she holds 670 points to Thompson’s 427 (with Baron in between and just ahead of Thompson at 429).
Leman, meanwhile, despite his five podiums and 470 points on the season, sits 100 points back of Jean Frederic Chapuis’ (FRA) 570. Like Leman, Chapuis has five podiums on the season. However, four of those podiums have been victories, with several of those victories coming at he expense of Leman's best efforts.
Del Bosco, still rolling off the strength of his three-straight podium run to start the season, holds on to third place on the men’s standings with 353 points.
The venue at Idre is perhaps one of the most original designs ever seen on the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour, with an ultra-technical opening sequence that gradually gives way to an extended final straightaway that is almost certainly the longest ever seen in World Cup ski cross action. With three huge jumps leading into a complex roller section just before the finish, the possibilities for challenges and passing in the final drag race before the finish line are limitless.
All of this makes it safe to say that the set-up in Idre Fjall is unlike anything seen before on the ski cross tour, and across the board the men and ladies’ of the ski cross World Cup are excited to see what Saturday and Sunday’s competitions will bring.
Two rounds of qualifications at Idre are to take place on Friday, February 12, beginning with round one at 10:00 and round two at 13:00. Then, on both Saturday and Sunday, finals will begin at 12:30, with awards immediately to follow.
As of right now, there are only two events left on the 2015/16 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour after Idre, with the Olympic test event in PyeongChang, Korea, slated for the last week of February and a new-format sprint event scheduled for Arosa (SUI) in the week after that. While efforts are being made to book a true season finale in Germany before season's end, none of the athletes in the hunt for this season’s crystal globe can rely on such an opportunity at this point.
So, in Idre this weekend, the target on the backs of both Holmlund and Chapuis will loom large, and the athletes lurking behind in the standings will be looking to claw every point possible away from the frontrunners as the 2015/16 ski cross season barrels towards its conclusion.