The final FIS Snowboard World Cup before we break for the holidays took to the famed slopes of Italy’s Cortina d’Ampezzo on Saturday evening, where the inimitable Ester Ledecka (CZE) claimed her fourth career parallel giant slalom victory at the venue in the women’s competition, and Dario Caviezel (SUI) earned his first career World Cup win in an inspired effort on the men’s side of things.
Saturday’s competition marked the seventh-straight season of FIS Snowboard World Cup competition in Cortina, where the stunning backdrop of the Dolomites, a exceptional race slope and the added drama of night racing under the lights have made the resort one of the highlights of the alpine snowboard World Cup season.
Ledecka earns fourth career Cortina PGS win
No woman has more podiums in Cortina than Ledecka, who entered this season’s race with four victories at the venue - three in PGS and one in PSL - and who was able to add her fourth PGS win on Saturday in a commanding performance.
First putting down the top qualification time earlier in the day, Ledecka then proceeded to demolish her competition in her finals heats, winning each one by well over a second up until the final, where her speedy pace out of the gate forced Russia Sofiya Nadyrshiva to make a major mistake just above the mid-point of the course, allowing Ledecka to cruise to the victory.
“It was a great race, a great evening,” Ledecka of her win, “I have to say that the organisers did an amazing job with the slope, so thank you very much. It was great to race here once again.
“I thought I had a quite solid performance all day. I’m happy about it, and I’m very grateful for my team because they did an amazing job today.”
Ledecka’s win came just two days after she finished second place in the Carezza (ITA) PGS competition, after she herself fell in her big final matchup with Daniela Ulbing (AUT). Still, with two podiums in three days it was an incredible return to competition for the two-sport athlete who splits her time between the FIS Snowboard and the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup tours, and who hadn’t raced on her snowboard in over one year.
Despite her fall in the finals, 18-year-old Nadyrshina rode exceptionally well on Saturday, qualifying with the second fastest time behind Ledecka and making her way confidently through her heats up to the big final. With her win at the season opener in Bannoye (RUS) and a second-place finish Saturday in Cortina, Nadyrshina now sits atop the PGS World Cup rankings so far this season.
Third place for the women went to Switzerland’s Ladina Jenny after a hard-fought battle with Italy’s own Nadia Ochner. Despite the strong support of the home-country crowd, Ochner would fall just short in a bid for what would have been her third career podium at Cortina, as Jenny was able to out-reach her at the line to win by just .01s.
Caviezel claims maiden World Cup win
Over on the men’s side of things it would be the first time in the history of the Cortina d’Ampezzo snowboard World Cup that we would not see local legend Roland Fischnaller in the big final, as the three-time Cortina PGS winner made a small mistake in his semifinal matchup against Dario Caviezel, losing the heat by just .02 to be relegated to the small final where he would have to fight for third.
After dispatching with the “King of Cortina” Fischnaller, Caviezel would once again be in nail-biting fight to the finish in the big final, where he squared off against alpine snowboarding’s hottest rider - Sangho Lee (KOR) of Korea.
After claiming the first victory of his career at the season-opening Bannoye PGS race (where he also added a second-place finish in the PSL), and finishing sixth earlier this week in Carezza, Lee was sitting atop the PGS and parallel overall rankings heading into Saturday’s competition.
However, there in Cortina it would be Caviezel’s turn to claim his first career World Cup victory, as he and Lee both put down near-perfect runs, battling turn for turn from top to bottom of the exceptional course before Caviezel was able to sweep across the line just .06 seconds ahead of the Korean.
“This is just incredible,” Caviezel smiled from the finish area, “This is my first victory on the World Cup stage, and I never thought it could happen here in Cortina. I’ve had no good experiences here on this slope, even though it’s an amazing slope. Finally today everything went on my side. I was lucky in the semifinal and the final where it was so close, and I’m super happy for this win.”
With his second place finish behind Caviezel, Lee was able to strengthen his lead atop both the overall and the PGS World Cup standings, with second-overall Stefan Baumeister (GER) losing ground to the Korean rider after finishing in 17th on the day.
Despite missing the Cortina big final for the first time ever, 41-year-old Fischnaller was at least able to at least keep his podium streak a the venue alive, as he outlasted Slovenia’s Tim Mastnak in another of the day’s close battles, winning by just .09s to make it eight-straight top-3 finishes at his home soil event.
With Cortina finished, another calendar year of racing has closed and it’s on to a well-earned holiday break for the FIS Snowboard Alpine World Cup. We’ll be returning to action in 2022, with the first competition of the new year set to take to the slopes of Scoul (SUI) for PGS action on January 8.