Thompson and Schauer top the field in Val Thorens
VAL THORENS, FRA - The Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour got back into action in grand fashion with men’s and ladies’ races in Val Thorens (FRA).
The big, burly Val Thorens course has historically provided the perfect stage for the kind of close-fought, unpredictable action that makes the Audi ski cross World Cup the most exciting sport on snow and Friday's race was no exception, with both the men's and ladies' big finals full of incredible passes and unlikely results.
One of the most memorable heats of the day was the ladies’ big final, where multiple lead changes and impossibly tight neck-and-neck battles were fought throughout the entirety of the course. Two moments, however, standout: the first being Georgia Simmerling (CAN) rocketing from fourth to first place through the flat middle section, out pumping her competitors into a lead she would hold to the final second of the race. The other standout moment came in that final second, when Marielle Thompson (CAN) was able to out-reach her teammate Simmerling in a photo finish that would go Thompson's way.
It was the second 1-2 result in as many races for Thompson and Simmerling in 2014/15, as the only two ladies on the Canadian ski cross team sit comfortably in those positions atop the SX leaderboard. Behind the Canadian duo, France's Alize Baron gave the home crowd something to cheer for with a third place result, edging Anna Holmlund (SWE) for her first podium in nearly three years.
The men’s big final was equally as entertaining, with just as much - if not more - drama than was seen in the ladies' race.
Out of the gate it was the top-qualifier, hometown hero, and man after whom the Val Thorens course is named who looked like he might make magic on the day, as Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) shot into the lead with a perfect start. However, over the flat, rolling top section he was gradually reeled in by all three of his bigger, heavier competitors, finding himself in fourth place by the first interval.
From there, it looked like it was going to be a 1-2 finish for Germany, as Andreas Schauer and Daniel Bohnacker surged ahead of Chapuis and Johannes Rohrweck (AUT). Then, after the course's big negative turn, just as Chapuis was making an incredible pass on Rohrweck, Bohnacker slid off course, putting Chapuis into second and making Schauer the lone German who would stand on the podium.
Schauer was on top of his game all day, and was the only men’s competitor to win all of his heats leading up to the big final. The win - the first of his career - puts him now in a tie for the overall World Cup SX lead with Austria’s Thomas Zangerl.
Competition continues in Val Thorens tomorrow, with a very full Saturday of action with both qualifications and finals taking place for the men and ladies in what will be the final Audi ski cross World Cup event before we head to the Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard world championships.
Video Highlights will be posted on the FIS Freestyle YouTube channel