Holmlund and Chapuis win the first race in Watles
The first of back-to-back races at the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup in Watles (ITA) finished with World Cup leaders Anna Holmlund (SWE) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) proving once again why they are atop the ski cross standings. the French team also made a statement that their slow start to the season is a thing of the past.
After a tough weather day yesterday with high winds, Mother Nature was on the side of the racers today as everything proceeded as scheduled.
The ladies' competition saw top qualifier Kelsey Serwa (CAN) knocked out in her first finals heat,
along with dangerous Ophelie David (FRA) and third-overall qualifier Daniela Maier (GER). Those early exits opened up the door for the likes of Holmlund, Andrea Limbacher (AUT), Alizee Baron (FRA) and Marte Hoeie Gjefsen (NOR) to make their way through to the finals.
Holmlund has been on a mission all season, making it through to the big final at every race and scoring a podium in all but one of those events. Saturday she was again true to form, winning both of her preliminary heats before cruising her way thought the big final on her way to her third win of 2015/16, with Baron taking second and Limbacher third.
It was Baron's third podium of the season, and even at this early stage it seems that she stands as the only legitimate threat to stopping Holmlund from securing her second-straight crystal globe. However, with 344 points, Baron sits 166 back of Holmlund's 510 on the season.
Limbacher, third on the day, also sits third in the standings, though with 282 points she has some serious ground to make up on the powerful Swede Holmlund.
On the men's side, the French team pulled off the improbable feat of a third podium sweep in three seasons, with Jean Frederic Chapuis, Sylvain Miaillier, and Jonas Devouassoux taking first, second, and third, respectively. German standout Daniel Bohnacker earned fourth place, his best result of the season.
Chapuis famously led a French sweep of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and then locked up his crystal globe last season. With their domination of the podium on Saturday in Watles, the French have reasserted themselves as the top team in ski cross, bar none.
Chapuis rolled into Saturday's finals starting from an uncharacteristically bad position, squeaking through qualifications with the 28th fastest time after registering four straight top qualification times before the holiday break. His skiing on Saturday, however, proved that his mistake in qualifying was just that, a mistake, as he and teammate Devouassoux rolled through all three preliminary heats together on their way to the finals.
In the big final Chapuis was challenged by his teammates, resulting in an incredible finish that saw all three French stretching out across the line. However, the top dog was able to hold his position, and with the win was able to move 100 points clear of fifth place finisher Brady Leman (CAN), with Chapuis sitting at 450 points to Leman's 350.
Action from Watles continues tomorrow with a first-ever for the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour, as a cancelled qualification round for Sunday's race has resulted in an expanded finals format wherein a round of 64 for the men and 32 for the ladies, grouped according to World Cup seeding, will start the finals proceedings.