Local heroes lead the way into Åre Audi ski cross World Cup
ARE, SWE – An action-packed month on the Audi FIS ski cross World Cup tour continues this week with a pair of races at one of the premier ski resorts of Scandinavia - Are, Sweden.
This will be the third consecutive year that the Audi ski cross World Cup has visited Are, a town with a rich history of hosting FIS World Cup events dating all the way back to 1969.
The Swedish ski cross team is riding high coming into Are, with Anna Holmlund and Victor Oehling Norberg sitting atop the respective ladies' and men's World Cup standings after back-to-back second-place finishes for Holmlund and back-to-back victories for Oehling Norberg at this past weekend's races in Arosa, Switzerland.
Both Holmlund and Oehling Norberg actually call Are home, and with the momentum they will be carrying from Arosa combined with their home-field advantage, the Swedish pair are clear pre-race favourites at their host event.
Other athletes to keep an eye on include Fanny Smith (SUI) and Ophelie David (FRA) on the ladies' side, and Sergey Ridzik (RUS) and Thomas Zangerl (AUT) on the men's side.
Like Oehling Norberg, Smith claimed victory in both of Arosa races, jumping from seventh in the World Cup standings all the way to second, just 10 points behind leader Holmlund, while David had a third place and a fifth place finish in Switzerland and now has five straight top-10 finishes on the season.
For the men, Ridzik scored the first two podiums of his career in Arosa, with a pair of runner-up results, all the while skiing with a veteran confidence that made it difficult to believe his previous best result had been an 11th, last season.
As for Zangerl, he will looking to return to competition after injuring his back in a nasty crash at the Kreischberg 2015 World Championships. Before his injury Zangerl was skiing the best of his career, sitting just one point away from top spot on the men's leaderboard, It will be interesting now to see if he can regain that form and make a push for top spot as we come into the homestretch of the 2014/15 season.
The competition venue in Are occupies the bottom third of what is traditionally the “Störtloppet” men's downhill course at the Swedish resort. With a tight, twisting upper section that opens up into a sweeping bottom half capped off with a huge finish jump, the Are course should be a true test for all of a World Cup ski cross athlete's capabilities.
Competition in Are gets underway on Friday with the first round of qualifications, followed by the first finals on Saturday, and then a full day of qualification and final rounds on Sunday on the challenging Are track.