The second of the two-day alpine snowboarding fest that opened the 2019/20 FIS Snowboard Alpine World Cup season went down in Bannoye on Sunday, where Ramona Theresia Hofmeister (GER) and Roland Fischnaller (ITA) walked away victorious from a parallel giant slalom competition that looked like it might not happen for much of the day.
While skies were clear over Bannoye on Sunday, heavy morning winds forced the delay of qualification runs until just before finals. However, luck would end up being on the event’s side, with the end of qualies running almost seamlessly into the scheduled finals, where an action-packed day of head-to-head snowboard racing took to Bannoye’s perfectly prepared PGS course.
Ladies’ competition saw Hofmeister come out swinging from he moment she got on course on Sunday, as the 23-year-old put down the second-fastest qualification times behind only her countrywoman Selina Joerg. Hofmeister would then go on to play something of the villain on the day by besting two Russian riders in Lisa Salikhova and Natalia Soboleva - as well as Saturday’s PSL winner Julie Zogg (SUI) - on her way to a big finals where she would face down Saturday’s PSL third-place finisher Ladina Jenny (SUI).
The Hofmeister vs. Jenny showdown was a tense one, with Jenny nearly losing control on a rut near the top of the course that forced her just back of Hofmeister, with the Swiss rider then battling to close the gap while hoping for a mistake from her German competitor.
Unfortunately for Jenny, Hofmeister would make no mistakes in her biggest run of the day, linking her turns smoothy from top to bottom to finish .59s ahead of Jenny and claim the fifth win of her career.
“Yesterday I was happy about my seventh-place finish, because it was the first race of the season,” said a smiling Hofmeister, “I had surgery in March on my shoulder and a long rehabilitation, but thanks to my team and everyone today I was able to win this World Cup. It’s so crazy.”
The small final saw the above-mentioned Soboleva facing down the World Cup’s eldest rider in Claudia Riegler (AUT), giving the host Russian squad their best chance of the weekend at earning a podium spot.
While it would go down as one of the most exciting heats of the weekend, unfortunately for the Russian fans Soboleva would finish just .11s behind, giving 46-year-old Riegler her 27th career podium.
Over on the men’s side, much like we saw in the women’s small final, it was age and experience ruling the day, as 39-year-old Roland Fischnaller capped off what was a hugely impressive day for the Italian team with his first World Cup victory in nearly a year.
For the last heat of the day Fischnaller found himself lined up alongside his teammate Mirko Felicetti, who was racing in just the second big final of his career. Unfortunately for Felicetti, it would end up being a final he would like to forget, as the 27-year-old would lose control on his heel edge and slide out just 10 gates into the Bannoye PGS course, leaving him to sit on the piste and watch as Fischnaller cruised to his 16th career victory.
“We had good conditions this autumn and a good training plan, and I think that this weekend we have shown the quality of the Italian team,” Fischnaller said from the finish area after his win, “This weekend (in Bannoye) was a big success, and coming up now we have two races in Italy. There was a lot of big steps taken (by the Italian team), especially some of the younger riders.”
In the men’s small final it was more of the same story, with Austrian veteran Benny Karl lining up against Bulgaria’s Radolslav Yankov, who was looking for his first podium in almost two years.
It was an extremely tight heat until the final few gates, where Yankov appeared to get a little too deep into a toeside turn, nearly missed his next heelside gate, and then pulled off the course while Karl swept across the line for his career podium number 36.
It all made for quite the showing for the over-30 crowd in Bannoye, with Fischnaller and Karl boasting a combined 341 World Cup starts. Which, interestingly, happens to be exactly how many World Cup starts Claudia Riegler has - bringing those three athletes total experience up to 682 World Cup competitions. All three, it would appear, are very much still going strong.
Next up, the FIS Snowboard Alpine World Cup is heading to Italy for a little PGS action at Cortina D’Ampezzo on December 14.