Back-to-back races in Italy next on Audi ski cross World Cup program
INNICHEN/SAN CANDIDO, ITA – After incredibly entertaining performance on one of the biggest, baddest ski cross courses the World Cup has ever seen in Val Thorens, the men and ladies of SX have shifted some 700kms west to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Italian Dolomites.
Against one of the most picturesque backdrops in all of skiing the Audi ski cross World Cup tour is set to drop in on back-to-back weekend races as part of a stacked FIS Freestyle weekend that will wrap up the calender year.
After the Innichen/San Candido stop there are only three races left in the Olympic qualification period, and the significance of an athlete's performance grows with each passing race. In Val Thorens, we saw how forces beyond anyone's control can influence a race, as changing snow conditions worked to speed up the track throughout the day, sending many lower-ranked skiers through to the final and forcing all but four of the top 16 ranked men out of the top 32 come finals day. Suddenly, points that may have been taken for granted were yanked away from a number of skiers, and the already-great pressure put upon them grew stronger.
However, those who prevailed in Val Thorens put on an unbelievable show. Veteran Andy Matt (AUT), the 2009 world champion, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games silver medallist, and the 2010-11 ski cross Crystal Globe winner, skied his best race in nearly two years, looking for all the world like the great powerhouse he was known to be before a 2012-13 season in which he did not see the podium once. Matt edged cool Swede Victor Oehling Norberg in a photo-finish to complete an incredible come-from-behind victory, while local hero Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) rounded out the top 3.
The ladies race was an absolute barnburner as well, with Katrin Mueller (SUI) completing a sequence of daring passes to move from 4th to 1st in one of the most exciting finals the ski cross world has ever seen. Facing down the resurgent Sanna Luedi (SUI), ageless Ophelie David (FRA), and impressive Marte Hoeje Gjefsen (NOR), Mueller rocketed through the Val Thorens course to claim her second career victory in spectacular fashion.
The Innichen/San Candido course is a much different animal than the Val Thorens track was, however. Featuring a technical, twisting upper-section with lots of opportunity to generate – and lose – speed, into a bottom section with a couple big negative turns where the race may be won and lost, the Italian course may cater more to the finesse skiers than to those who thrive on the big jumps.
The Innichen program will see men's and ladies' qualifications on Friday followed by a race on Saturday. Then on Sunday we can plan for a tightly packed program of a morning qualification round followed immediately by the weekend's second race. With these being the last races before the Audi FIS Freestyle ski cross tour breaks for the holidays, count on the intensity being high as racers look to lock in Sochi Olympic squad spots before stepping away from racing for a couple of weeks.
Currently, Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) lead the respective ladies' and men's World Cup ski cross standing.
Full race program for Innichen/San Candido available HERE
Men's and ladies' World Cup leaderboards can be viewed HERE