Chapuis excels and Zacher gets lucky in Innichen/San Candido
Innichen/San Candido, ITA – The first race of two slated the last competition weekend of 2015 took place under the shadow of the Dolomites at the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Innichen/San Candido, Italy, on Saturday, with Heidi Zacher (GER) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) claiming the respective ladies' and men's wins.
Zacher's win came on a day when it looked like the Swedish duo of Anna Holmlund and Sandra Naeslund were well on their way to their second 1-2 finish on the season, as the veteran and reigning World Cup champion Holmlund and the 19-year-old rising star Naeslund were both clinical in taking their separate paths to the big final.
In the big final, exception starts by both the Swedish ladies had them out front early, with Holmlund leading the way comfortably through the top section. However, as the final progressed, it became clear that Naeslund wouldn't simply let her mentor get away without a fight, reeling in Holmlund and eventually setting up to enter the final “Super G” section of the course side-by-side.
Then, as Zacher watched from fourth position, French leader Alizee Baron swept low on the two Swedes in a desperate pass attempt. Instead of moving into top spot, however, baron ran out of real estate, getting tangled up in the skis of Holmlund, knocking Naeslund off-balance, and crashing into the nets herself.
“I made a little mistake on the jump before the negative, and you can't do that in the final” said Holmlund in describing what went wrong, “and then Sandra came on one side and Alizee on the other side and...'smack.' It's nothing to talk about though. It was fair skiing.”
Zacher was able to pick her way through the mess and cruise unchallenged through the finish line for her second career win and second straight top-4 result, followed by Holmlund, Naeslund, and Baron who was able to pick herself up and eventually make her way down in fourth.
“Two years ago was my last time on the podium, and it was here,” and beaming Zacher said from the finish are, “It's great to be back on the top of the podium. I like the course here in Innichen and I like being here. I always come back here with a good feeling, and now to get the victory, it's perfect.”
Happy and laughing, Zacher broke down the moment that handed her the race.
“I was trying to find somewhere to pass, but I had no chance. And then into the last turn the other three girls all tried to pass each other, they all crashed, and I passed all of them and won the race. Perfect!”
In the men's event, Chapuis absolutely dominated the day after doing the same in qualifications the day before, proceeding nearly unchallenged through his three heats leading up to the big final and looking often like he was skiing in a different league than his competitors.
In the big final he was stacked up against Brady Leman (CAN), Johannes Rohweck (AUT), and Bastien Midol (FRA), after the latter two competitors made big passes on Filip Flisar (SLO) in the semi-final, with Leman similarly making a strong move on teammate Chris Delbosco to follow Chapuis through to the big final.
Things were tight out of the start, with Chapuis eventually pulling ahead and opening up a lead and Leman trailing hot on his tails. For a couple of moments it looked like Leman might have an answer for Chapuis, twice setting himself up for passes that never materialized as Chapuis kept finding higher gears.
Chapuis opened up a gap through the “Super G” section near the course's end and slid over the line for his second win in a row, followed by Leman with his third podium on the season and Rohrweck with his first podium in almost a year. Midol was forced to settle for fourth.
“I had a good feeling on my skis today,” Chapuis said about his win, “I felt like I could make a lot of speed in the turns. Everything was almost perfect. I could have maybe been a little bit better on the start, but it was ok. I felt (Leman) behind me on the first turn, but after that I just focused on my race and on not making a mistake.”
With qualifications for Sunday's race already taken care of on Friday, it's the same program again tomorrow in Innichen/San Candido, with some athletes getting another shot at the podium and some other athletes slotting in for their first round of heats on the weekend. With finals getting underway again at 13:30 CET and the weather supposed to be much the same as on Saturday, everything is shaping up to make for another memorable day on the technical Italian track.