Bansko Kranjska Gora
The Kranjska Gora GS podium: teenager Alexis Pinturault, Carlo Janka and Ted Ligety.
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia has found
it difficult to regain winning form
after resting during Worlds.
There were, of course, other stories in these four races, and a couple of big
ones were American-based.
Ted Ligety is chasing his third World Cup GS crown in four years. Coming off
his gold medal in the event at Garmisch and heading into Kranjska Gora, the
site of his best Cup results (wins in ‘08, ‘09 and ‘ 10), he was fired up and hitting
on all cylinders. He had matched his career-best World Cup combined result
at Bansko in fourth, and he appeared to be making headway in slalom, getting
his third-best slalom finish.
But it was an unusual year for Kranjska Gora. They got snow. While the fresh
stuff was dutifully scraped off the courses, the surface left was tricky and
changeable. Ligety did what he could. He is generally acknowledged to be the
best GS skier in the world right now, which he demonstrated again. But it was
Janka with the win and, with a stunning second-run performance, France’s
newest phenom Alexis Pinturault in second place. Ligety got third, ahead of
those who chase him for the GS title. He was 0.12 of a second from the win. If
he can place 11th or better in the final GS of the season, he will win the crown
regardless of what the competition does.
Simply finishing at Kranjska Gora, Ligety said, was a challenge. “Just being
able to finish, and finish on the podium, was a good thing,” he said.
Pinturault, still a teenager, was ecstatic with the result, as were the French
in general. The Tricolor had Cyprien Richard in fourth, Thomas Fanara in fifth
and Steve Missillier in ninth, marking the first time four Frenchmen had been
in the top 10 of a World Cup of any discipline since December 1971. They also
had Thomas Mermillod Blondin in 11th.
We’ve come to expect this kind of greatness from Ligety, but the slaloms
brought Americans a fresh reason to celebrate: Nolan Kasper.
With six Europa Cup podiums, he leads that circuit’s slalom standings and
sits third overall (behind Pinturault, by the way). Ligety says that Kasper has
been the fastest slalom skier out there since January. And Kasper has showed
speed in World Cup slaloms all season — a 12th at Kitzbuehel, a 13th at Schl-adming, and then his first top 10 at Bansko. At Kranjska Gora, says coach
Sasha Rearick, he “found another gear,” finishing second to Matt by 0.09 and
ending up tied with Swede Axel Baeck.
“On the bottom, that was some of the most impressive skiing of the season by
any athlete on the World Cup,” said Rearick of Kasper’s second-run charge.
It has been, as Kasper says of the Europa Cup, “a battle in the trenches” to get
where he needed to be to make that second-run assault in Kranjska Gora.
SkiRacing.com MARCH 17, 2011 | 20