Huge battle for the downhill trophy

With the cancelled Rosa Khutor race, the Crans-Montana classic Women’s World Cup takes on even more importance in this winter’s calendar. Just like Lake Louise and Bansko, the Valais stage is hosting two Downhills and a Combined (Super-G and Slalom). There will then be only three meets left (La Thuile, Ofterschwang, Are) before the finals in Cortina d’Ampezzo (16-22), but no more Downhills.

The least one can say is that the races look undecided. The six Downhills organised so far this season have seen six winners, of six different nationalities, which is unheard of. In order; the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka and Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer in Lake Louise, Switzerland’s Corinne Suter at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, the USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin and Italy’s  Elena Curtoni in Bansko and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Seven other athletes have also finished with podium places on at least one occasion, including the Swiss skiers Joana Hählen (in Bansko) and Michelle Gisin (Altenmarkt-Zauchensee). However there will only be six places on the downhill podium on Friday and Saturday… and knowing that stars such as the world champion Ilka Stuhec, Lara Gut-Behrami, Tina Weirather and Ramona Siebenhofer are still waiting impatiently for their first podium places in the discipline this season….

Corinne Suter against Federica Brignone

For Corinne Suter, it will be far from an easy task to keep hold of her red World Cup Downhill leader’s bib. The Schwyz local will have to take on a dangerous Federica Brignone, who hasn’t won a Downhill yet this winter, but is the only athlete to have finished on three podiums. The 29 year old Italian has fond memories of Crans-Montana, where she took the Combined on three occasions in 2017, 2018, 2019, as well as the Downhill last year. Alongside Wendy Holdener, Michelle Gisin and Petra Vlhova, she is also of course considered one of the main favourites for Sunday’s Combined. Federica Brignone won the only race to date in the discipline this winter, at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, beating Wendy Holdener (by 0’’15), Marta Bassino and Ester Ledecka. Currently fourth in the downhill ranking, the opportunity for the Val d’Aosta local to win the crystal globe for the discipline is absolutely intact. As for the other candidates, Mikaela Shiffrin will be absent, after the loss of her father, as will Viktoria Rebensburg, who was forced to end her season due to injury, the day after her victory in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Similar to the race for the top spots, the battle to qualify for the finals will be a tough one. On the Swiss side, Lara Gut-Behrami will be taking part alongside Suter (1st), Hählen (14th) and Gisin (19th). However as she is in 24th place, the skier from Ticino will have to score points, as will Tina Weirather (25th), Jasmine Flury (30th), Priska Nufer (37th),  Mirjam Puchner (29th) and Anna Veith (34th).

Non-stop celebrations

The programme for the weekend on the Haut-Plateau once again looks flamboyant. The celebrations will take place both on and at the finish area of the Mont Lachaux piste, as well as in the centre of the resort, with a variety of entertainment planned. The atmosphere at the bib draw and award ceremonies on Friday and Saturday evening at the Ycoor ice rink looks to be as lively as the atmosphere at the finish stadium. In 2019, a total of 31,470 spectators attended, 13,000 on Saturday and 11,800 on Sunday.

Photo: Zoom Agency

The downhill's podium from Zauchensee-Altenmarkt 2020: 1. Corinne Suter, 2. Nicol delago, 3. Michelle Gisin
This Wednesday's snowfall generated a considerable amount of work on the piste. A snapshot of the soldiers of Bat inf mont 85 in action. 
At the team leaders' meeting (left to right):  Andreas Krönner, FIS technical operations manager, Marius Robyr, president of the
Organisation Committee, Michaela Dorfmeister,  FIS technical delegate and Peter Gerdol, chief race director for the FIS women's races.

 Video (only in French): Laurent Morel, SkiActu