After the North American races, the Men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup goes to Europe. The next stop is Val d’Isère, France, where a giant slalom takes place on Saturday and the season’s first slalom takes place on Sunday.
Marcel Hirscher won the previous giant slalom in Beaver Creek and claimed the giant slalom World Cup lead. The Austrian is surely one of the favorites also in Val d’Isère where he has won the GS three times.
Ted Ligety of the USA won the season-opening GS in Sölden. In Beaver Creek, he was slightly under Hirscher’s time at the second split on the first run, yet he crashed out. Val d’Isère hasn’t been the most successful place for Ligety; the most successful GS skier of the 2010s has only one win there plus one additional podium finish in giant slalom.
Thomas Fanara finished the season-opening Sölden GS in second place. The Frenchman started the Beaver Creek GS slightly quicker than Hirscher, yet crashed out after the first split, so it’s hard to assess his form based on that race. Now he gets to race in his home country where he finished second in the previous Val d’Isère GS in 2013.
Stefan Luitz had a great chance for a second place or even his maiden win in Beaver Creek. His time at the last split was just 0.23 seconds behind the race winner Hirscher, yet he made a big mistake and finished 22nd. Now the 23-year-old German will race in Val d’Isère where he has scored two of his three career podiums; a second place in 2012 and a third place in 2013.
Victor Muffat-Jeandet of France finished second in Beaver Creek. Though, considering the gap of 0.98 seconds to Hirscher, it is hard to see him winning without Hirscher and other favorites having a bad race.
Henrik Kristoffersen was third in Beaver Creek. The three-time GS junior World Champion isn’t probably ready to constantly challenge the likes of Ligety and Hirscher yet. Though, he has already shown he can win in GS; he scored his first win in last season’s final GS in Méribel.
Roland Leitinger of Austria has set the quickest time on the 2nd run in both this season’s giant slaloms. In Sölden he progressed from 26th to sixth place and in Beaver Creek he progressed from 26th to 10th place. If he could have a better first run, top five would be possible. Making the podium would probably require struggling from the favorites, though.
Last season’s runner-up in the giant slalom World Cup, Alexis Pinturault, was having a great first run in Beaver Creek, leading Hirscher by 0.33 seconds in the final split. However, he couldn’t finish but crashed and hit his head. Nothing serious was found in a medical examination following the crash, though he needs a break, which puts the Val d’Isère weekend in doubt for the Frenchman.
Marcel Hirscher is a three-time defending champion in the slalom World Cup. In each of those three occasions, Felix Neureuther of Germany was the runner-up. In last two seasons, Neureuther even led the slalom standings before the final race.
Those two must be the biggest favorites for the slalom title, yet there were six different race winners in the slalom World Cup last season, and a seventh different skier won the World Championship slalom.
Alexander Khoroshilov of Russia scored his first career win in Schladming last season and finished third in the slalom standings. Stefano Gross of Italy and Mattias Hargin of Sweden were other skiers who achieved their maiden wins last season, finishing sixth and seventh respectively in the points.
Last season’s fourth-placed, Henrik Kristoffersen, was the only skier besides Hirscher and Neureuther to win multiple races. The two-time slalom junior World Champion’s achievements already include the third place of the 2013-14 slalom World Cup and the 2014 slalom Olympic bronze medal. The 21-year-old Norwegian might be ready this season to truly race for the slalom World Cup title.
The 2008-09 slalom World Cup champion Jean-Baptiste Grange finished last season only 13th in the slalom points. However, the Frenchman won his second World Championship in slalom. That shows he is still a dangerous competitor in slalom.
Fritz Dopfer was one of the most solid technical skiers last season, finishing fourth in giant slalom standings and fifth in slalom. The 28-year-old German has three second places and one third place in both disciplines plus slalom World silver medal. Slalom might be his better chance for a maiden win, considering nobody is as dominant as Ligety and Hirscher in giant slalom.
The 2010 Olympic gold medalist Giuliano Razzoli may also be strong in slalom this season. The Italian finished last season with two second places—his first podium finishes since December 2011—and achieved a career-best eighth place in the slalom World Cup.
The 2011-12 slalom World Cup champion, André Myhrer of Sweden, has recently had not so much success. In last two seasons, he finished 12th in the slalom standings. Career-best fourth place in the Beaver Creek GS in his usually weaker discipline was a promising result. It will be interesting to see if his form is better also in slalom or if he has just improved in giant slalom.