Audi ski cross World Cup gets back on track in Val Thorens
VAL THORENS, FRA – The Audi FIS ski cross World Cup tour finally gets back underway this week, with back-to-back races slated for January 9th and 10th at the always incredible venue of Val Thorens, France.
The Audi ski cross tour has been on something of a hiatus since the 2014/15 season's opening event in Nakiska (CAN), as poor snow conditions in Europe lead to the cancellation of the scheduled Innichen (ITA) event and a reschedule of the Val Thorens event from mid-December to this upcoming weekend. However, now that the long-awaited European snow has finally arrived, hopes are high for the rest of the FIS Freestyle World Cup calendar.
The first day of the rest of the season takes place on Thursday, with qualifications ahead of the first race of the Val Thorens weekend on Friday. Saturday will then see a full schedule of same-day qualifications and finals.
With only the Nakiska race to go off of thus far, it's perhaps too early to be making any performance assessments for 2014/15. However, it does seem safe to say that Marielle Thompson (CAN) doesn't seem to be feeling any hangover from her Olympic gold and World Cup crystal globe-winning 2013/14 season. Thompson lead the way from qualifications right through to her final heat in Nakiska, as she and teammate Georgia Simmerling went 1-2 while fighting off challenges from hard-charging Fanny Smith (SUI) in the Nakiska finals.
Swedish skiers Sandra Naeslund and Anna Holmlund took fourth and fifth in Nakiska respectively, and Naeslund owns a podium finish from one of the three Val Thorens races from last season, so look for that duo to be in the mix as well, come Friday in France.
The men's race in Nakiska saw the Austrian team put on a strong performance, with Johannes Rohrweck leading qualies and teammate Thomas Zangerl ultimately taking the win in finals. Zangerl in particular is one to watch right now, having won the last World Cup of 2013/14 in Are, Sweden, and the Austrian national championships this past November, making for the hottest streak of his career at the age of 31.
Men's 2013/14 ski cross crystal globe winner Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) came second in Nakiska, and, like Thompson for the ladies, seems to be carrying last season's momentum smoothly into 2014/15. Armin Niederer (SUI) took third at Nakiska and has been perhaps the most consistent skier on the Audi ski cross tour over the past three seasons, though he has struggled somewhat at previous Val Thorens races.
The Val Thorens course – named after Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medal-winner and Val Thorens local Jean-Frederic Chapuis – is one of the biggest and most demanding on tour, and the track's diverse layout and features combined with its high alpine setting makes it one of the most spectacular in the world. With all the athletes on the Audi FIS ski cross World Cup tour chomping at the bit to get back to competition, the upcoming weekend of races promises to be the perfect way to kick the season back into high gear after a month off.
The provisional race program for the 2014/15 Val Thorens Audi ski cross World Cup can be found HERE
Ladies' 2014/15 Audi ski cross World Cup standings can be found HERE
Men's 2014/15 Audi ski cross World Cup standings can be found HERE
Photos from last December's Val Thorens ski cross World Cup can be found HERE