Zacher and Flisar seeing double in Cross Alps Tour finale Innichen
Innichen, ITA - The final stage of the 2016 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup Cross Alps Tour took to the slopes of Innichen/San Candido (ITA) this week for a pair of back-to-back competitions on Wednesday and Thursday, and when it was all said and done we would see a pair of repeat winners in Heidi Zacher (GER) and Filip Flisar (SLO) while the big trophies for Cross Alps Tour overall winners would go Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA).
In the ladies’ final on Thursday Zacher was matched up against World Cup and Cross Alps Tour points leader Thompson and two athletes in the midst of comeback seasons that continue to grow more impressive as the 2016/17 season rolls on - Fanny Smith (SUI) and Marielle Berger Sabbatel (FRA).
As she had been throughout most of the two days of competition in Innichen Thompson was a rocket out of the gate into an early lead, but it would not last long.
Something about the Innichen course seems to bring out the best in 28 year old Zacher, with two of her career World Cup wins before Thursday’s competition coming on the challenging Dolomiten track, and she was quickly able to catch and pass Thompson through the middle rollers section and hold the Canadian off to the top of the course’s “Super G” final descent.
There, just before entering the twsiting Super G section, Thompson hit a rut and spun out, forcing Smith and Berger Sabbatel into evasive action as Thompson slid across the course.
Way ahead Zacher cruised easily across the line for her second win in as many days, while Smith would hold off Berger Sabbatel to take second.
“I love it here,” said a beaming Zacher from the finish area, “There are big turns, it’s icy, it’s steep, there’s a tough finish slope… Always if I come to Innichen there are good vibes for me and I love to ski fast here.”
Zacher’s win moved her into second spot on the final Cross Alps Tour rankings with 324 points, while Fanny Smith with her runner-up finish for the day and fourth-place finish in Wednesday’s race, ended December with 293 points and moved up to third overall on the tour standings, above injured Anna Holmlund (SWE) and the also-sidelined Sandra Naeslund (SWE).
Thompson, with 475 points, was safely in possession of the tour overall trophy before competition began on Thursday.
Flisar matches Zacher, powers to second straight
It was deja-vu all over again in the men’s competition in Innichen on Thursday, as Filip Flisar (SLO) replicated Zacher’s performance on the ladies’ side by taking his second win in two days while also, like Zacher, moving himself into second overall on the World Cup and Cross Alps tour rankings.
While his march to victory was by no means uncontested, Flisar’s incredible starts from first to final heat on the day ensured that he began nearly every run by forcing his competitors to chase him.
In the big final, matched up against Christoph Wahrstoetter (AUT), Arnaud Bovolenta (FRA), and another athlete with back-to-back Innichen wins in his career, David Duncan (CAN), Flisar was again able to find the perfect rhythm though the tough top section and pull ahead.
All three of the the final men behind Flisar stayed in contention throughout the big final, before Warhstoetter looked to make an inside move on Flisar over the final jump and across the line. However, the big Slovenian was able to keep his speed and his cool to take the win, with Wahrstoetter in second followed by Bovolenta in third.
“To be honest, I’ve had enough messing around,” Flisar said of his mindset heading into the Innichen competition, “I knew I was in good shape at the start of the season, I came to Val Thorens and smashed the training runs, but then something went a bit wrong in the qualies and my attitude just started going down and I didn’t perform good in the first races.
“It’s kind of hard to get back after that. I was doubting myself a bit - Can I do it? Can I not? But now I’m back in the groove. I’ve got my confidence back. I feel like I can win every time, now.”
Thursday’s win gave Flisar 282 points on the season, 77 points back of Chapuis who, despite his 13th place finish on Thursday, finished December with 359 points to take the Cross Alps Tour win. Alex Fiva (SUI), 14th on Thursday, would finish the Tour ranked third.
Canada takes Cross Alps Tour Nations trophy
Lead by Thompson on the ladies side and Brady Leman on the men’s side, the Canadian squad claimed the trophy for top nation on the Cross Alps tour, despite missing Chris Delbosco, (second overall on the ski cross World Cup last season) for half the Tour competitions.
Delbosco, Duncan, Kevin Drury, Georgia Simmerling, and Kelsey Serwa all helped score points for the Canadians, and by the end of Thursday’s competition in Innichen they would hold a 190 point advantage over the second-place French - 1270 to 1080.
GEPA Pictures photos (for editorial use)