Chapuis thrills home crowd; Holmlund makes it two in a row
Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) thrilled a chainsaw, flare, and siren-wielding crowd, finally scoring a win on the course that bears his name, while Anna Holmlund (SWE) made it two wins in a row this weekend in Val Thorens (FRA).
Chapuis was given the honour of having the ski cross course named in his honour after he lead a French sweep of the podium at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. However, until Saturday, the best he had ever performed in front of his home fans was a second-place result last season.
A disappointing quarter final exit in Friday's competition had it looking like maybe the pressure of having an entire town placing their hopes on his back were distracting Chapuis.
On Saturday, however, last season's World Cup crystal globe winner was back in the razor sharp form that saw him finish 2014/15 with four victories in the final five events, completing some of the best passes seen this season and going toe-to-toe in the corners with the imposing Chris Delbosco (CAN) in the big final to take the victory in front of an ecstatic crowd.
Delbosco has been on an a roll this season, with victories last week in Montafon and on Friday in Val Thorens. After powering through his first three heats nearly unchallenged, it looked like the veteran would be unbeatable once again.
In the big final, however, Chapuis reeled Delbosco in through the top part of the course after the Canadian's fast start, then made the pass and pulled away.
“Today was a perfect day. To share this with the people of Val Thorens and the fans is just perfect,” said Chapuis after the race, “Yesterday I was really disappointed, but more for my fans than for me. I know I made some big mistakes. Today I wanted to make it better, so that they could forget yesterday's race. I did my best to get the win here today. It was difficult because I didn't have the best starts but I made some good passes on the rest of the track.
Delbosco, perhaps surprised at finally getting caught after wining every heat so far this season, lost momentum once caught by Chapuis, eventually getting passed yet again by Thomas Harasser (AUT) as the Austrian made good on the promise he has shown at points over the last two seasons by scoring his first career World Cup podium.
Daniel Bohnacker (GER), after nearly crashing immediately out of the start gate, finished in fourth.
The ladies' final was something of an anticlimax, with both Andrea Limbacher (AUT) and Heidi Zacher (GER) pulling out of the gate a little too enthusiastically and crashing before the first jump while Holmlund and French favourite Alizee Baron (FRA) sped away.
Baron kept pace with Holmlund in impressive fashion, but couldn't make any real moves on the powerful Swede, as Holmlund sailed over the final jump and into her second victory in as many days with relative ease.
“You're always challenged out there,” she said of her performance, “It's never easy. I just tried to focus on my skiing and doing what I could to control my race since I was pretty bad in training and in qualies. I'm really glad. I'm really tired, but I'm really happy to be able to win. I skied well and it was nice to not get passed.”
Back at the start, behind Holmlund and Baron, Limbacher pulled herself together quicker than Zacher, pinning her way down the rest of the course and into third place for her fifth podium in nine races, dating back to last season.
In the finish area Limbacher greeted Zacher with a smile and a hug, each knowing that, like Holmlund explained, nothing's ever easy at the Audi ski cross World Cup Val Thorens.