llka Stuhec and the Swiss are fast in the Valais sun
Ilka Stuhec, who is in great shape, will be one of the top favourites for the downhill in Crans-Montana on Saturday. The 32-year-old Slovenian clocked a blistering time in the first and only timed test ahead of the weekend's opening event, despite missing a gate. The 2017 and 2019 world champion has been on the rise once again in recent months, and will be looking for her first podium in this ultimate discipline on the Haut-Plateau, having already won the super-G in 2017 on the Mont Lachaux piste.
On Friday, Ilka Stuhec finished 0.91 seconds ahead of Ticino’s Lara Gut-Behrami, who also missed a gate, but who seems perfectly adjusted to the current conditions in Valais. Above all, she likes this year's modified course, and it shows. There was a surprise from Isabella Wright, who also didn’t manage a "correct" run, but finished in third place, 1.22 behind the fastest time. Italy’s Sofia Goggia, the favourite in Saturday's downhill, fell into the nets, but it was nothing too serious.
Joana Hählen (8th), Priska Nufer (9th), Corinne Suter (10th), Michelle Gisin (15th) and Jasmine Flury (21st) are also in the running. Not every member of the Swiss team gave their all in this test, instead they concentrated predominantly on certain sections. The condition of the piste, which was quite soft due to very high temperatures over the past few days, especially at the bottom of the course, was generally quite good. Most of the athletes thanked the organisers for the work they had carried out in order to ensure a good race.
"With a bit of help from the weather, snow and salt, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will go well," said Ragnhild Mowinckel, bronze medallist in the giant at the World Championships in Meribel. "I have to adapt to the soft snow and ski differently," explained Ilka Stuhec. "But we're used to it in Slovenia, I'm feeling comfortable and confident on this very nice downhill."
The good news for the organisers is that temperatures are expected to drop over the next few hours. The conditions for Saturday's downhill, which starts at 11am, should be better than this training session. Finally, it will be much colder for Sunday’s super-G, which also starts at 11am.
DEPREZphoto sa, cransmontana/Frédéric Dubuis