Naeslund and Fiva on top in Idre Fjall day one thriller
Idre Fjall (SWE) - The first of two back-to-back competitions slated to open the new year for the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour took to the monster course at Sweden’s Idre Fjall resort on Saturday morning, where Swedish hero Sandra Naeslund swept her way to a victory from the top qualifying spot, and Alex Fiva (SUI) topped a close men’s final in a thrilling day of racing on the tough Swedish track.
Naeslund owns home track
Naeslund had never missed a podium in her four previous attempts at Idre, and her smoking fast qualification times that she put down on both Thursday and Friday for this weekend’s two races she served notice that she had every intention of keep the streak going this season.
It wasn’t an easy big final that she found herself lined up in a the end of the day, however, with Marielle Berger Sabbatel (FRA) , Fanny Smith (SUI), and upstart 21-year-old India Sherret (CAN) all making their way to the final to test her.
However, the rest of the ladies of the big final would have little chance to make that test, as Naeslund pulled out of the gate like a rocket and into a lead of several ski lengths by the time she was past the first features.
Through the rest of the course Naeslund had to simply ski as if she had the course to herself, nailing every big jump and rhythm section through the extended Idre Fjall straightaway to take her fourth victory of the season and her sixth-straight podium.
"It's really fun skiing here in Sweden and I like this course," said Naeslund after the race, "I felt good all day, my starts were good, and the rest of the course was just going well for me. Hopefully tomorrow I can do it again."
Once she found her groove, Berger Sabbatel was able to keep pace with Naeslund, but was too far back to make any charge, while Smith and Sherret battled for third behind. However, once Smith crashed in the landing of the biggest jump on course, Sherret set her sights on Berger Sabbatel, nearly reeling her over the final stretch right up to a photo finish from which Berger Sabbatel would eventually prevail.
Still, Sherret’s third place result would be the first podium of her career, giving the already-strong Canadian squad yet another proven threat.
With the win, Naeslund now holds 520 points on the season, putting her on top of the ladies’ ski cross rankings as well as giving her top spot overall spot on the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup. Second on the ski cross standings is Heidi Zacher (GER) with 414 points, while Georgia Simmerling (CAN) is in third with 291.
Fiva prevails in men’s thriller
The big final on the men’s side was an epic ski cross heat, with the the Swiss trio of cagey veteran Alex Fiva, ski cross World Cup leader Marc Bischofberger, and top man in Friday’s qualification (for Sunday’s race) Romain Detraz lining up against three-time reining crystal globe winner Jean Frederic Chapuis of France.
While Fiva jumped out to a slight lead through the Idre course’s first features, the four men were never more than a ski length apart through the top section, with Bischofberger and Chapuis both launching multiple attacks at the leader.
As they four skiers made their way to the final straightaway things really got interesting, with the athletes spread four-wide across the course and each choosing a different approach over the incredibly variable combination of take-offs and landings offered by the track that many skiers feel is the best in all of the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup.
In the end Fiva would prevail in a three-way photo finish for his second victory in Idre Fjall in as many seasons, with Bischofberger just a finger behind in second and Chapuis managing to hold off Detraz for third place.
"It was an exhausting race," said Fiva after the awards ceremony, "So many rollers to press, and some heats I was behind on the finish straight and had to keep fighting, but in the end I won here again so I'm happy. Two races in two days here almost feels like too much though. We'll see how I do tomorrow.
"I thought Marc was ahead of me at the end there," Fiva went on regarding the final heat, "I'm almost more happy that he's on the podium again. And then with Romain in the final with us, and Jean Fred who's half Swiss, it was kind of like having four Swiss in the final (laughing)."
The win was Fiva’s first 2017/18, but his second podium result in a row in what has been an inconsistent campaign from the Swiss leader thus far. However, with the 100 points earned on Saturday Fiva now moves into fifth-place on the tightly-packed men’s standings with 208 points, putting him one point back of fourth-place Chapuis, and three points back of third place Viktor Andersson (SWE), who may have been injured in a crash on Saturday.
Bischofberger, with 382 points, seems to be the only man with breathing room on the tour, sitting 144 ahead of France's Terence Tchiknavorian and his 238 points.
Action in Idre Fjall continues on Sunday, with competition once again hitting the big track at 12:00CET. Top qualifiers Naeslund and Detraz will hold the advantage heading into what once again promises to be a must-watch of a competition as the top qualifiers.
- Full ladies’ results
- Ladies’ ski cross World Cup rankings
- Ladies’ big final highlight video
- Full men’s results
- Men’s ski cross World Cup rankings
- Men’s big final highlight video
- Idre Fjall data page (live brackets and results)
- TV broadcast information