Chapuis back on top in windy and wild Idre Fjall

14 January 2018 17:42
JF Chapuis celebrates victory in Idre Fjall
JF Chapuis celebrates victory in Idre Fjall -
GEPA Pictures

Idre Fjall (SWE) - The second of this weekend’s back-to-back Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup competitions in Sweden’s Idre Fjall resort went down on Sunday but not without a hitch, as Saturday’s bluebird conditions were replaced with falling snow and heavy winds on day two of competition, forcing the cancellation of the ladies’ finals although allowing the men’s to continue, where France’s Jean Frederic Chapuis claimed a huge victory.

The call to cancel the ladies’ final was a last-minute decision by the jury made as the first heat of the quarter finals was approaching the start gate. Having already postponed the start of the competition by 30 minutes in the hopes that the wind would die down, and with the earlier onset of darkness at the northerly Idre Fjall location quickly approaching, officials couldn’t push the race back any longer and made the decision to call off the ladies’ side of things to avoid a potentially dangerous situation for the athletes.

With that decision, Friday’s qualification results would go into the books as the final results for the competition, giving Sweden’s own Sandra Naeslund her fifth victory of the season and making it two-for-two on the weekend at her home country venue. Swiss star Fanny Smith  would take second place, while Germany’s Heidi Zacher would walk away from Idre in third. 



With Sunday’s result, Naeslund continues her 2017/18 podium streak with her seventh straight, as her lead atop the ski cross World Cup standings continue to grow. She now has 620 points on the season, with Zacher in second with 474, and Smith in third with 353.


Chapuis back to winning ways for first time this season

While the decision to cancel the ladies’ competition on Sunday was disappointing in light of the high-caliber racing witnessed the previous day, what did not disappoint was the action seen on the men’s side of Sunday, where the long, technical, and demanding Idre course drew some courageous performances from the athletes in what was their fourth straight day of racing in Sweden.

Despite the conditions, the men were able to put on a strong show on the gruelling Idre track on Sunday, with France’s Jean Frederic Chapuis putting in a gutsy performance to earn his first victory of the season while showing that he, as the reigning Olympic champion, he is starting to heat up ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Games in just a few weeks.

In the big final Chapuis lined up alongside his teammate Jonas Devouassoux, Saturday’s winner Alex Fiva of Switzerland, and burly Russian Sergei Ridzik as the wind howled around the start gate. 

Through the early part of the course it was Fiva jumping into a narrow lead as he had done through nearly every heat of the two days of competition, expertly nailing the rhythms and airs of the tricky top section. However, Fiva would soon be passed, first by Devouassoux, then by Ridzik, while Chapuis waited calmly in fourth place for an opening to make his move. 




The Frenchman would make that move at the top of the extended final straight of the Idre Fjall course, turning on the jets and shooting into the lead, with Fiva following right on his tails. While it appeared for a moment that the big Swiss skier might overtake his French competitor, a small mistake scrubbed Fiva’s passing speed, denying him in his quest for back-to-back victories as the three-time reigning crystal globe winner Chapuis would cross the line for the victory. 

Fiva would hold on for second place and his third podium of the season, while Devouassoux would finish third for his first podium in what has been a challenging 2017/18 season thus far, with Ridzik forced to settle for fourth.

“Finally,” said the ultra-competitive Chapuis of his first 2017/18 win, “Today’s race was really hard. With the fresh snow the course was slower, but the biggest problem was the wind. On the big jump it would take you a little bit off the line, so we had to fight against it. And yesterday’s race also was a real physical fight for me, so I’m happy to be able to finally get this win today.”

It has been an unpredictable season all around on the men’s ski cross World Cup this season, with Chapuis' inability to score a win one of the biggest surprises thus far. However, on Sunday, with fatigue, weather conditions, and a tough field all stacked against him, Chapuis was able to rise to all challenges and show, with less than a month to go before the Games in Korea, that he is still one of the most driven competitors in ski cross.

With the win, Chapuis leapt into second overall on the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup standings with 309 points, putting him in striking distance of leader Marc Bichsofberger (SUI) and his 397 points. Fiva, with his back-to-back podiums in Idre, made huge gains in this season’s tightly-packed men’s standings, and now sits in third with 288 points - just 21 points back of Chapuis.

The ski cross World Cup now hops across the Atlantic for the lone North American stop on this year's tour at Nakiska, Canada, for the final competition before the PeyongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Korea.