Exciting races again at Alta Badia

Thanks to the hard work of its crews and the generous help of a group of friendly volunteers from Kitzbühel, the OC of Alta Badia managed to produce two exciting competitions on the now legendary “Gran Risa” run which has been hosting a multitude of World Cup races since December 1985.

This year all two scheduled races could fortunately take place in front of large crowds – in fact it was the only World Cup event that could be organized so far as planned despite the difficult weather conditions which have been disturbing all the other organizers in France and in Italy in December. The racing conditions were surely very testing during both races, especially in occasion of the giant slalom competition, the third this season. Both two runs had to be shortened but this didn’t affect too much the level of the race which remained as demanding as usual because of the steep hill and the tough snow conditions. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen was by far the most determined in the afternoon after clocking the 6th best time in the morning – after a very aggressive second run, he set a new best mark that could not be matched by any of the other favorites starting behind him. The reigning giant slalom World Champion beat by 31/100 France’s surprising Cyprien Sarrazin while Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec was 3rd at 39/100. Marco Odermatt, 2nd in the opening leg, moved back to 5th place despite a spectacular mistake in the middle of his run. The promising Swiss talent unfortunately injured himself at his right meniscus during that incident and fell down after crossing the finish line. Marco had to be carried out of the arrival by FIS Officials. He may unfortunately need to rest for a while before returning on the circuit. France’s Alexis Pinturault, the winner at Soelden and 3rd in the morning leg, had to be content afterwards with a less glorious 8th position after his final run while Scandinavian Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen, the fastest man in the morning, moved back to 11th position. The best Italian was Luca de Aliprandini, 16th. “This has for sure been one of my toughest races ever,” said a thrilled Kristoffersen after the race. “I didn’t ski well but I never stopped fighting hard from top to bottom, it was crazy,” added the 25-year-old Scandinavian who regained the lead in the overall World Cup standings with that win. He also received the leader’s red bib before the prize giving ceremony for taking over the command in the giant slalom standings, one of his main goals this season. “I’m pretty proud to become the first Norwegian to win that prestigious competition, certainly the most challenging giant slalom on the calendar with Adelboden. It surely means a lot to me to achieve so many strong results since my win at Levi. It’s very important for my confidence to be so consistent in recent weeks,” said also Henrik who has now reached the mark of twenty victories on the World Cup tour. Last week, he was 4th in slalom at Val d’Isère despite a disastrous first run, and 2nd two weeks ago at Beaver Creek. He was already twice 2nd in that prestigious Italian World Cup Classic won six times in a row by Austria’s retired Marcel Hirscher from 2013 to 2018. Last winter, Hirscher even managed to dominate both races here at Alta Badia.

USA’s Ted Ligety, a multiple gold medalist at Olympics and World Championships in his heydays and a fantastic winner on the “Gran Risa” some years ago, could not end his first run. It could well have been his last appearance as a racer in Alta Badia!

A tough parallel race. The first parallel event of the winter took place in the early Monday evening in front of a large crowd gathered around the finish area following an interesting first qualification tour dominated by Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. Yet this year, Kilde, an remarkable 4th in Sunday’s race only 7/100 away from his first podium in giant slalom, could not repeat his strong performances from past years – he was 4th in that competition two years ago! Kilde was eliminated in the 1/8th final by his teammate Rasmus Windingstad who went on to celebrate his maiden World Cup victory in that last World Cup competition before the short Christmas break, beating Germany’s veteran Stefan Luitz in the Final, while Austria’s Roland Leitinger enjoyed his very first podium on the World Cup tour with his 3rd place while Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen was 4th. It was a more difficult day for some top favorites as Alexis Pinturault and Henrik Kristoffersen. The Frenchman lost in his first round while the Norwegian came in 7th after being eliminated in the ¼ Finals by Leitinger. With his outstanding performances on the "Gran Risa", Winingstad also managed to beat last year's winner of the Dolomiten Ski Trophy awarded to the most consistent racer in the stages of Val Gardena and Alta Badia. Rasmus, 7th in Sunday's giant slalom, was very glad to capture that prestigious trophy and he is looking forward to receive the wooden artwork that a local artist will be producing for him in the next weeks. "It has been a great tradition for our team to clinch that Trophy which allows us to plan a great team party for next spring, we all like it a lot," he explained afterwards. Two of the pre - race favorites slightly injured themselves during their runs, but they expect to soon recover their best shape. Pinturault felt some pains at his adductors following his runs while Kristoffersen apparently hurt his right leg but it doesn’t look serious fortunately.