It was a day of miracles in Wengen (SUI) today. Most had written off any chance of today’s Audi FIS World Cup alpine combined race to even be staged after a fierce winter storm unleashed its fury overnight and through much of the morning. Most generally don’t expect a racer with starting with Bib #51 to win at one of the most iconic stops on the tour, but ultimately, both miracles happened as unknown Swiss rookie Niels Hintermann took home his first-ever World Cup victory.
The Organisers scrambled through the night, and a late change to the programme ultimately saved the day as the slalom was run before the downhill portion. Throughout the slalom, heavy snow continued to fall as the racers battled down the course. Justin Murisier (SUI) ultimately was the fastest man down the mountain in the slalom.
A small window of opportunity gave the Organisers a chance to prepare the course for the downhill, but those that were strong in the slalom were the ones that were ultimately punished in a downhill as the snowfall steadily picked up giving the early starters the clear advantage. One racer that made the most of the opportunity was Hintermann, who was the seventh racer in the downhill, and claimed the fastest time that stood as some of the top names came down the Lauberhorn with not luck against the conditions.
"I'm not that experienced in winning races," said Hintermann. "So I have no idea what's upcoming now. I felt good during the slalom race, I really liked it. It was tough to drive because it was pretty steep and the rollers were pretty intense ... (in the downhill) the weather seemed to make a little turn, lucky for me, after me it started snowing pretty heavy again and now I'm here winning my first World Cup."
The entire podium was made up of racers who were among the first ten starters in the downhill. Maxence Muzaton (FRA) and Frederic Berthold (AUT) rounded out the unlikely podium. In fact, it was the first podium for all three of today’s top-three finishers.
"It's an amazing day," said Muzaton. "I never expected to be on the podium at the end, but we make an outdoor sport and today, conditions were more in my turn so I'm happy with that. My first goal this season was the downhill. I decided to make this alpine combined only to make some speed turns. It's pretty amazing."
Same echo from Frederic Berthold: "At first, it was a very difficult slalom in the morning. I tried to do a solid run and I finished twenty-second and had a good number for the downhill. The conditions got always worse and I can't realize that it ended with me on the podium now."
Tomorrow, the winter weather pattern is forecast to continue, but the Lauberhorn Organiser is hoping to pull off another miracle for the downhill, scheduled for a 12:30 CET start. With the results from the two trainings it could be another day of unexpected results.