Cross Alps Tour kicks off in Val Thorens
Val Thorens (FRA) - It’s race day in Val Thorens (FRA) as the first-ever Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour begins it’s 14 day, 1000km, six-event journey from the French Alps to the Italian Dolomites.
Thursday was qualification day in Val Thorens, giving athletes a chance to win one of the top four ladies’ or top eight men’s spots ahead of the public heat selection, where those top qualifiers would be able to choose their competitors for the opening heats of Friday’s competition.
To the surprise of few, Thursday’s qualification leaders were the two athletes who have stood strong atop the ski cross standings at the conclusion of the past two seasons, as Anna Homlund (SWE) and local Jean Frederic Chapuis (after whom the ski cross course in Val Thorens is named) topped their respective fields to start the 2016/17 season just as they left off 2015/16.
With their top times Holmlund and Chapuis earned the honour of first choice later in the day, at what turned out to be a lively and entertaining affair at the first-ever ski cross World Cup public heat selection (PHS).
For the PHS, qualification rankings were used to divide the field into four pools corresponding to the bib colours the ranked athletes would be wearing. For the ladies this meant a “Red” pool of the top four qualifiers who would be doing the selecting, a “Green” pool of the athletes ranked from 5-8, a “Blue” pool of the athletes ranked from 9-12, and a “Yellow” pool of those ranked from 13-16. Beginning with Holmlund, each of the top four ladies would choose one competitor from each pool to round out their heat of four, until all finals athletes had been selected.
(For the men, the “Red” pool was composed of athletes 1-8, “Green” from 9-16, “Blue” from 17-24, and “Yellow” from 25-32.)
In the ladies selections Marielle Thompson (CAN) chose two of her Canadian teammates for her first round heat on Friday, ensuring that at least one of the Canadian ladies would be eliminated early in the race.
Later, in the men’s selections, fifth-ranked qualifier Jonas Lenherr (SUI) chose world champion Filip Flisar (SLO) based on a backstage conversation before the selection where each athlete agreed on a “rematch” to right the wrongs of an in-race incident that occurred between the two last season.