Ski cross season finale set for Arosa sprint
Arosa, SUI - The final event of the 2015/16 Audi FIS Ski Cross season is set to take place this week, with a special-format ski cross sprint event taking to the slopes of Switzerland’s Arosa resort on Friday, March 4th.
While this season will be the third consecutive year that the ski cross World Cup has visited Arosa, never before has the season finale been held at the resort. And, while the FIS Ski Cross World Cup has had 110 competitions over the course of its existence, never before has it held a specifically sprint-styled event as a World Cup competition.
The course in Arosa is, for the most part, a 600+ meter straightaway with a complex series of bumps, rollers, and jumps that give way to an innovative split-roller section divided by a two meter high wall down the centre. Immediately out of the split rollers is a high, 180-degree bank that turns the athletes back upon themselves and sends them across a nearly uphill finish line.
While upon initial glance the course looks simple compared to some we have seen this season, come time for four-aside heats the margin for error will become exceedingly slim, and skiers will be forced to rely on a tricky combination of rhythm, precision, and drag-race speed to find their way onto the podium on Friday.
Coming into Arosa, both the ladies’ and men’s races for the ski cross crystal globes have already been decided, with Anna Holmlund (SWE) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) having both secured their second-straight ski cross World Cup titles ahead of the season finale.
Arosa helmet-cam course preview
However, while Holmlund has had her ski cross globe locked down since before last weekend’s competition in Korea, she remains in a battle for the Freestyle overall crystal globe, and she currently sits just over 8 points ahead of US athlete Devin Logan in the scoring-adjusted Freestyle overall World Cup leaderboard, 79.55 - 71.20.
While Friday’s race will be the last chance for Holmlund to score points the season, Logan competes in slopestyle and halfpipe events and is entered in both the upcoming Silvaplana SS and Tignes HP World Cup’s. With two competitions in which Logan can score points and catch Holmlund in the next week, Holmlund has a clear incentive to put it all on the line in Arosa in an attempt to become the first ski cross athlete since 2009 to take the overall globe.
Some injuries in the past week have effected the battle for the remaining places on the ski cross World Cup overall podium, and will very likely have some impact on which team will take the 2015/16 ski cross Nations Cup trophy.
For the ladies, an injury in training at Arosa to fourth-overall competitor and last week’s winner in PyeongChang Andrea Limbacher (AUT) means that third-place overall for the ladies will come down to a fight between Alizee Baron (FRA), Sandra Naeslund (SWE), and Heidi Zacher (GER). While Marielle Thompson (CAN) is out of reach in second place, Baron currently holds on to third with just a 25 point advantage over Naeslund. Zacher, meanwhile, sits a further 34 points back.
On the men’s side, top Canadians Brady Leman and Chris Delbosco, sitting second and third on the leaderboard respectively, will remain in those positions despite both suffering injuries in Korea.
Leman, who was involved in a crash with teammate Kevin Drury that resulted in a shoulder fracture in PyeongChang, and Delbosco, who tweaked his back at the same event, were both key components of a strong season for the Canadian team that sees them coming into Arosa just 32 points ahead of the powerful French squad in the Nations Cup battle. With both Leman and Delbosco sitting out the Arosa competition, the door may be open for the mostly-healthy French team to pull ahead and take the Nations trophy for the second-straight season.
In other news, a vote amongst team captains at the nightly meeting on Wednesday decided that Daniella Maier (GER) and Daniel Traxler (AUT) would be awarded the 2015/16 “Rookie of the Year” honours. Maier, with a season-best eighth-place finish in Innichen/San Candido before Christmas, and Traxler, with a fifth-place finish last week in PyeongChang, have both emerged as consistent competitors in their first seasons on tour, and look poised to represent their nations strongly for years to come.
With no qualification round scheduled, competition in Arosa gets underway on Friday with preliminary heats set to go at 9:45 CET, followed by finals at 11:45. Race day and season awards are to follow.