Hirscher gives a master class in Schladming Night Race

Win number 68 for Marcel Hirscher came about in super impressive fashion: Fastest on the first run by almost a second to taking the race win by increasing his margin of lead to 1.21 seconds over a charging Alexis Pinturault with Danny Yule taking third. Ramon Zenhausern and Marco Schwarz rounded out the top five with rising star Albert Popov from Bulgaria taking sixth. Dave Ryding finished ninth.

The Schladming Night Slalom is one of the races every Slalom racer wants to win. Kitzbuehel may have attracted 39,000 for the race the Saturday before, buoyed by the change of day, but Tuesday after the Kitzbuehel race for the last 22 years has been The Night Race and this attracts in excess of 50,000 ski racing fans.

After Clemont Noel straddled on the first run to halt his run of victories, Hirscher bettered the time set by Pinturault and still had a lead just shy of a second over Yule when he came down afterwards. Hirscher has been on fire in the second runs in Wengen and Kitzbuehel over the last two races but this was him on fire in the first run. The hard, steep icy pitch was shown no respect as he carved his way down the Planai slope to take the lead comfortably.

Come run two and from the off you had a feeling this would be a risky business. Juan del Campo from Spain got the second run off and struggled with the conditions sliding off course at the first hairpin. he recovered but his chance of scoring World Cup points had gone. (You have to be within 10% of the winners time to score points).

At the TV break after 15 racers had been down it was Giant Slalom specialist Zan Kranjec leading having gone down third.

Rising talent from Bulgaria, Alexander Popov then went into the lead but was soon deposed by Marco Schwarz. Ryding, going down three after Schwarz was in touch at the final split but held off a little in the run in to the finish, he explained and rued after the race. Schwarz stayed in the lead, much to the excitement of the Austrian crowd until the final four came down. Ramon Zenhausern had lead in Kitzbuehel and was looking to become the first Swiss winner in Schladming.

It was a solid run by the Swiss racer and took the lead but no sooner had he sat down in the leaders enclosure and Alexis Pinturault had gone over a second into the lead.

Pinturault now has his own specialist coach and over the last two years a lot has changed he explained after the run. A lot of work has gone in to the Head skis he uses and the set up with the French team. designated Slalom and Giant Slalom teams has helped him he continued and then admitted that he has trained a lot of slalom this year compared to previous years and has cut back on the speed training.

With Pinturault in the lead in the finish, Yule was second last to go and tried as he might to be the first winner for the Swiss in the Night Race, he could not better the time of Pinturault. It was France or Austria for the win.

After the race Pinturault was full of praise for Hirscher's first run, "this was the base for his win," he explained. Hirscher does not know how to be beaten. He had over a second lead from the first run yet was still in full on attack mode. Yule explained after the race that when others have got close to him, he has raised his game. "In Switzerland we have Roger Federer as a true sporting great but Marcel is ski racing's equivalent," Yule explained.

Yule scored his first podium here a year ago and won in Madonna di Campiglio. After the race he admitted the atmosphere at Night Races is something that appeals to him.

Hirscher praised the crowd in helping him to win his 68th World Cup race and a race win that saw him edge closer to retaining the Slalom Crystal Globe as he is now 275 points clear of Noel with three races to go. With both Noel and Henrik Kristoffersen both skiing out, this was Hirscher's fifth win of the Slalom season.

What was basis for the win? Hirscher explained that he has "been working for the right set up over the last three races and this was the result of team work. I knew after three turns that the set up was right and that I could attack even more." Ominous words for the rest of the field.

Full results

about author