Exceptional Swiss sweep top spots in Sunny Valley

03 March 2018 12:25
Sunny Valley podium
Sunny Valley podium -
GEPA Pictures

Sunny Valley (RUS) - The first of this weekend’s back-to-back Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup competitions at Russia’s Sunny Valley resort saw an exceptional performance from the Swiss ski cross team on Saturday, with the nation sweeping top spot in both the ladies’ and men’s competitions in impressive fashion.

While frigid temperatures have prevailed throughout training at the Miass, the perfectly sculpted course at Sunny Valley set the stage for some exceptional racing throughout the day.

Smith runs the table in tight ladies’ contest

Ladies competition saw top qualifier Fanny Smith of Switzerland go the distance on Saturday, coming out on top in the final against Olympic silver medalist Brittany Phelan (CAN), Katrin Ofner (AUT), and FIS Freestyle World Cup overall leader Sandra Naeslund. 

With a strong start Smith jumped straight into a lead she would never relinquish, though she was pressured from behind at points first by Naeslund and then by Phelan, while Ofner traded between third and fourth place throughout the run. 

However, towards the bottom of the course, a small mistake by Naeslund slowed her charge and put her on a convergent line with Ofner, and when the two made contact with their skis Naeslund went down to give Ofner a free line to third place on the day behind Smith and Phelan.

“It feels, as always, just amazing to be in top spot today, but it feels even better when we have a real ski cross race like the one today,” said Smith following the awards ceremony, “Today there was lots of passes, really good racing, nice and fair. So I’m so happy to do it today. The energy here is so good with the huge crowd, just everyone so excited, it’s really great.”

The win was Smith’s second of the season and moved her into second place on the ski cross World Cup rankings behind Naeslund, who is already guaranteed the 2017/18 ski cross crystal globe. Phelan’s second place result was the second podium of her career and moved her into fourth place on the standings, while Ofner earned the ninth podium of her career.   

Lenherr takes second career victory, denies Drury

Over on the men’s side of things, Jonas Lenherr completed the first-place sweep for the Swiss squad with a slick pass in the middle section of the Sunny Valley course on Kevin Drury, denying the speedy and ever-improving Canadian of an elusive first career victory. 

Lenherr and Drury were joined by the French duo of Jean Frederic Chapuis and Francois Place in the final, and the four finalists put on an incredible show of skill for the huge Russian crowd on hand.

Drury jumped out to an initial lead that he would hold through the top half of the course while Lenherr stayed on his tails, before one small mistake would send the Canadian wide, opening the door for Lenherr to sweep past and into a lead maintained across the finish line for the second victory of his World Cup career.

“Today was awesome,” Lenherr smiled from the finish area, “I tried to have a fast start and then just drive hard. (Kevin) Drury was in front, but then he had a mistake at the turn with the rollers and I was able to pass in there. And it’s amazing with Fanny winning as well, two wins for our team. It was a good day.”

Drury’s second-place finish was the second World Cup podium of his career, and comes fresh off his fourth-place performance at the Olympic Winter Games in Korea, moving him into fifth place on the ski cross standings. 

Chapuis would finish in third, recovering from a near fall in the top half of the course to pass teammate Place in the final straightaway for his fourth podium of the season. With Saturday’s strong performance Chapuis inched closer to the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup leader Marc Bischofberger (SUI), who failed to qualify for Saturday’s race after falling in the first round of Friday’s qualifications.

Sunday’s Sunny Valley competition, the second of this weekend’s back-to-backs, will be the last for the men and ladies of ski cross before the World Cup finals wrap things up in Megeve (FRA) on March 17. With only the top 32 men and top 16 ladies eligible for competition at the World Cup finals, there’s still plenty to race for. Those stakes, combined with the ever-tightening crystal globe race on the men’s side of things, should make tomorrow’s event compulsory viewing once again.

Sunday’s competition gets underway at 12:00 YEKT (8:00 CET).