Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour: One month to go
The FIS Audi Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour is getting geared up for its second season, with the 2017 iteration of the Tour set to get underway with a pair of races in France’s Val Thorens resort on December 8 & 9, 2017.
This year’s Cross Alps Tour follows the same route across the Alps as did the 2016 debut of the Tour, with athletes, support staff, and fan clubs in tow as the Tour moves from Val Thorens, to Arosa (SUI) for a nighttime sprint event on Dec. 12, to Montafon (AUT) for competition on Dec. 15, and finally finishing things up with the back-to-back two-race finale in historic Innichen/San Candido (ITA) on Dec. 21 & 22.
With this being an abbreviated Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season due to the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in February, the Cross Alps Tour will make up fully half of the ski cross World Cup program for the 2017/18 season, making the Tour all the more important for the top men and ladies of ski cross.
The 2017 Cross Alps Tour will have a slightly different feel than the 2016 version, as an extra day of rest has been added following the Arosa competition, making the 1000km, six-event Tour a 16-day journey from the first day of qualifications in Val Thorens to the crowning of the Tour champion in Innichen.
Once again, the Cross Alps Tour will feature a public heat selection before each competition, except for the last event of the Tour in Innichen/San Candido where only the top 32 men and 16 ladies in the rankings will be able to compete.
A popular, entertaining, and intriguing wrinkle to proceedings that was first introduced last season, the public heat selection allows the top eight men’s qualifiers and the top four ladies to select the three other competitors they will line up against in the first heat of the event to come.
As seen last season, the public heat selection is a uniquely unpredictable affair, with the top athletes employing wildly different strategies, often times choosing their competitors based as much on grudges and braggadocio as perceived weakness.
Last season it was Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Jean-Frederic Chapuis (FRA) who topped the respective ladies’ and men’s 2016 Cross Alps Tour fields.
Thompson was dominant in her march through the Alps, taking three victories and a runner-up result in the six races while never finishing lower than fifth, all while leading the Canadian squad on its way to capturing the Cross Alps Tour trophy as the top nation in the Tour.
Things weren’t so clear-cut for Chapuis over on the men’s side, as the reigning Olympic champion and three-time crystal globe winner saw some tough competition from the likes of Filip Flisar (SLO) and Alex Fiva (SUI) on his way to taking top spot. However, with two victories and a third-place finish in the six races, he was able to secure the big trophy.
While Chapuis is primed and ready to defend his position this year, Thompson recently suffered a significant knee injury in training ahead of the season and will not be on hand to defend her title for the 2017 Cross Alps Tour, opening the door for the likes of her teammates Georgia Simmerling and Kelsey Serwa, Fanny Smith (SUI), or 2017 world champion Sandra Naeslund (SWE) to take the crown.
Of course, the only predictable thing about ski cross is its unpredictability, and all bets are off until the we finally get underway in Val Thorens this December.