There was no time to breathe since my last blog! The first stop in Åre was the city event in Stockholm and, as most of you guys know, city events are not my favourite discipline yet I have to say that I am extremely satisfied with my performance in Stockholm. My run times were very good and the fact that the flags of the gates were lower than usual made things more balanced.
Unfortunately, my opponent in the second run was Ramon Zenhäusern, who is known and has often proved to be among the best in this discipline. Accordingly, that put the whammy on me. Nevertheless that shows, once again, that to feel satisfied it is not always about the rankings but also about the certainty that you get the maximum out and thereby deliver a good performance. Apart from that, I was already able to secure the slalom crystal globe through my solid performance at the city event 😉
Next stop was Bansko and let’s be honest: Bulgaria and skiing, who has that on the screen? Do they even have mountains? The Carpathians? Heard of it, yes, but where are they anyway and are there ski resorts there? Questions that you as an Austrian skier on the flight to Sofia ask yourself – and the surprise was great!
Bansko is a fantastic ski resort that is over 2,500 metres high. Modern lifts and perfectly groomed slopes. This shows us once again that skiing is much more widespread than we think. Also the races were perfectly organised and the whole environment like the finish area, the team hospitality, the slope preparation – all this was impeccable, even better than some negative examples back home in the Alps!
The goal in Bansko was, to collect as many points as possible, regardless of the local conditions, so therefore I had planned to do the alpine combined – always an extreme challenge! Especially since I could not really prepare myself this time because the focus in training is, of course, on my core disciplines. My last super-G was the final in Åre. We only had a single day of training before the race in Bansko. Considering these circumstances, and also the extremely difficult conditions on the day, finishing 1.83 seconds behind is satisfying.
Of course, I did wish for some others between the best time and mine, to get an even better start number in slalom, but in the end I got 18 and thus the bib number 13 in the slalom. Fortunately, the track was good enough so that I could get a good run and a lot out of it. The win was out of reach anyway, as Alexis (Pinturault) once again showed his class as an all-rounder with a fifth place in the super-G. He is just a brilliant skier. For me, a second place and 80 points on this day were top and another big step in the direction towards my eighth overall World Cup title, and that’s what it’s about right now – maybe even a bit too much, as you should be shown the day after next.
The super-G in Bansko got cancelled and all that was left was the giant slalom, which was characterised by very special conditions. The snowfall and the extremely cold temperatures had changed the slope so that the slope offered little ‘counter-pressure’. You had to feel the slope and that turned out to be a challenge for everyone. I was able to take the lead with a solid first run.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel as loose and relaxed in the second run. In order to gain points my aim was, of course, not to drop out but this played on my mind all the time and built up pressure. I made a few small mistakes hence my second run was only mediocre. In the end, I was still happy. Finishing second in the GS, I secured the GS globe and massively improved my starting position for the overall World Cup – what more could I ask for? Especially considering that in all these years I’ve never managed to secure the slalom and the GS crystal so early on in the season!
Unfortunately, we also got some bad news during our weekend in Bulgaria – the knee injury of Marco Schwarz is extremely bad! The past weeks were very intense but also extremely successful for him. Three World Championship medals, a third place in Stockholm and, of course, on Friday he wanted to secure the globe in the combination. The conditions were very good and I was convinced that he would succeed.
His toughest opponent was Alexis and it’s clear that you have to risk everything to win against him. In the end, the goal jump was his fate. However, thanks to an immediate surgery of the cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, Marco’s recovery has already begun, and I am confident that he will be back in the autumn. I am sure that he can become the next Austrian overall World Cup winner!
After these draining last few weeks, it is now time for a break and recovery. I am still not 100%. Like last year, I will again skip Kvitfjell. Instead of yet another race, we will start with a special GS and slalom training at the end of this week so that I will be able to exploit my full potential again in Kranjska Gora in 12 days and also in the following season finale. Until then, I wish you a few sunny days of skiing and all the best!
See you in Slovenia.