Miaillier leads French sweep of men's SX podium in Megeve, Holmlund takes ladies' win
MEGEVE, FRA – The first of back-to-back races to end the Audi ski cross World Cup season took to the slopes of Megeve, France, on Friday, and by the end of the competition a wild local crowd had plenty to celebrate, as Sylvain Miaillier lead an incredible French sweep of the men's podium, while on the ladies' side Anna Holmlund (SWE) dominated from start to finish to claim victory.
Holmlund never trailed on Friday, laying down the top time in qualification before essentially running away with all of her heats on her way to the win.
The victory was the second consecutive for Holmlund, her third on the season, and her sixth podium of 2014/15 with one race to go, giving her a insurmountable lead in the ski cross World Cup rankings heading into the final race on Saturday.
Top challanger Fanny Smith (SUI) suffered an undisclosed injury after a hard crash in training on Thursday, and while her injuries are not serious, she did not compete Friday and is out for Saturday's event, as well.
Second place on Friday went to Katrin Ofner (AUT) for her second podium of the season, with both of those results coming amidst a strong run of seven straight top-10 finishes. Third place on the day went to Marte Hoeie Gjefsen (NOR), who finally secured her first podium of the 2014/15 after two disheartening fourth-place results earlier in the season.
Top French lady Alizee Baron rounded out the big final in fourth place.
On the men's side, it was pretty clear from the outset that the French might be on their way to a good day, as the host squad held seven of the 32 entry spots and were able to qualify five of those skiers into the top ten. When the rounds of heats eventually whittled it down to a big final of three French athletes joined by a lone German, guaranteeing at least two podium spots for the host team, the party in Megeve had basiclaly already started.
In that final however, it looked like the German skier Paul Eckert would spoil the party, locking into third place behind Miaillier and Bastien Midol after World Cup leader Jean-Frederic Chapuis dropped low after the negative turn. However, a few corners later, Eckert too would drift out to the soft snow and lose momentum, allowing Chapuis to sneak back into third and establish a French sweep of the podium that stirred memories of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
The victory was the first career win for Miaillier, and a great triumph for a skier who has spent much of the best two seasons battling an undiagnosed vision problem. With Chapuis and Eckert well back, all that was left for second-place finisher Midol to do was ride Miailler's coattails through the finish where, joined by Chapuis, the celebration got underway.
"It feels amazing," said Miailler, "I've had a very difficult two years, with my vision, and not getting results, but now to finally get a win is incredible. And to do it France, with my teammates, it's incredible. I really like this course, and I guess it's easy to ski fast when you like the course."
Chapuis's podium was his fifth straight and sixth on the season, and he, like Holmlund, is now untouchable atop the ski cross leaderboard as we head into Saturday's race.
Further adding to the incredible day for France was Bastien Midol's younger brother Jonathan taking top spot in the small final.