World Cup picks up pace again in Lackenhof | Karl with comeback
The upcoming weekend will feature the first events of the FIS Snowboard World Cup tour in 2018 with the alpine snowboarders descending on Lackenhof, Austria for both, a parallel giant slalom as well as a parallel giant slalom team event scheduled for January 5 and 6.
It's the second time in history that the circuit stops by in Lower Austria after Jauerling played host to parallel races back in 2012.
Six years later, the debut of Lackenhof as a World Cup host is of even more importance with the riders turning in on the home stretch of their Road to PyeongChang.
Until the end of the official qualification period (January 21) there are only three more individual races to come which will provide the chance to earn a national spot for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Tight battles for World Cup title
In addition, the race for the Crystal Globes is also in full swing with a few athletes have been doing well this season so far.
In the women's event, multi winter sport talent Ester Ledecka (CZE) has won both PGS events which makes the reigning World Champion the top favourite for the win at the first ever World Cup race staged on Oetscher Mountain's Distel slope.
However, the current Overall Alpine Snowboard World Cup leader (2,290) isn't the only one who had a great December as Sabine Schoeffmann (AUT) is coming with some confidence to the first of four home soil races in a row.
The 25-year-old is not only sitting in second of the Overall World Cup standings (1,820) but also triumphed in the sole parallel slalom of the season so far.
Over in the men's competition, Roland Fischnaller (ITA) has finally overcome his disappointing last season which saw him finish in the top-3 only once.
The South Tyrolean placed in the top-5 in all three races so far securing a second rank and first place finish in Cortina d'Ampezzo prior to Christmas therefore sitting on the top spot of the World Cup ranking (2,250).
His main pursuers are Nevin Galmarini (SUI; 1,660) and Andrey Sobolev (RUS; 1,440) who finished second and first in the season's opener, respectively and therefore underlined their parallel giant slalom skills already.
Karl to celebrate comeback
While the top-3 men will keep on battling for World Cup points, another big name is set to return to business, too.
Local favourite Benjamin Karl (AUT) will celebrate his comeback after fracturing his right ankle and tearing two ligaments only four weeks ago during a training crash in Carezza, Italy.
After the four-time World Champion had already been testing his foot on snow last weekend, a final MRI confirmed the positive healing process and gave green light for a start.
“I have been doing everything I could to recover as fast as possible,” Karl said.
“Yesterday's check-up showed that the screws used to fix the fracture are holding out well. Only the ligaments are a bit sore. But I can live with that.”
Especially as the 32-year-old has had his first racing experiences in Lackenhof back in the days: “I have been racing minor Cups there before. So, I'm really looking forward to the World Cup events.”
Qualifiers for the individual PGS will kick off Friday, January 5, at 9 AM CET with finals slated to take place at 1 PM CET.
The team event will start on Saturday, January 6, at 11 AM CET.
The latest programme of the FIS Alpine Snowboard World Cup's fourth tour stop is available here.
Live timing links for both races can be found here.