Smith and Midol shine again in Sunny Valley

Though the supporting cast changed completely, the major players stayed the same at the second race of this weekend’s Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup double-header in Russia, as Fanny Smith (SUI) and Bastien Midol (FRA) went two-for-two on the weekend with wins on Sunday.

If Sunny Valley is considered to be one of the best “pure” ski cross courses on tour - with it’s big jumps, tricky rhythm sections, multiple passing zones, and one minute-plus runtime - then it only makes sense that the two best athletes across the whole 2018/19 season should excel on the Ural Mountains track.

And excel is exactly what Fanny Smith did once again on Sunday, putting on a dominant performance for her sixth win of the season, winning her quarter and semifinal heats with relative ease on her way to the big final.

Once there, she again grabbed the hole shot with the fastest start to get out to front where she likes to operate from, skiing a controlled top-to-bottom run to victory that would be her third five attempts at the Russian venue, earning her the famous Sunny Valley gold crown for the second straight season.

Smith didn’t go unchallenged in the big final, however, as Alizee Baron (FRA) appeared to be ready to make a move on her Swiss counterpart heading into the final turn. Unfortunately for Baron, though, she nearly get tangled up in Smith’s skis. As she worked to avoid a crash Baron lost some speed, allowing Smith’s Swiss teammate Sanna Luedi to sweep past and into a second-place position she would hold across the line for her second podium of the season.

Baron, meanwhile, was able to carry enough speed to stay ahead of Canada’s India Sherrett to end up on the podium in third place, her third such result in the past five World Cup competitions.

Smith’s win on Sunday moved her up to 763 points, putting her all but out of reach of Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund and her 675 points with just one one race left in the season, at the World Cup finals in Veysonnaz (SUI).

Like Smith in the ladies’ race, Bastien Midol showed a mastery of the Sunny Valley course that was unmatched on the weekend, absorbing every tricky bump with ease and generating speed where others were sometimes simply trying to hold on.

And, also like Smith, Midol would win every heat on his way to the big final, where he too would start from the skier’s-left land and pull out to a small advantage by the first corner while the likes of Alex Fiva (SUI), Brady Leman (CAN), and rising German star Florian Wilmsmann jockeyed for position behind him.

While Midol held his lead in relative comfort, the battles raging behind him were fierce from the top to the bottom of the course, with Leman and Fiva going shoulder to shoulder into the second corner before Leman dropped back and Wilmsmann looked to maneuver himself into podium position, only for Leman to roar back up on Fiva before the final turn.

Fiva would be able to hold on to second place, landing back on the podium after finishing a disappointing fourth after crashing in the big final in Saturday’s race, giving him his third of the season and ensuring that he can finish the 2018/19 season ranked no lower than third overall.

Leman was able to hold off Wilmsmann to capture the finally spot on the podium in third place, giving the reigning Olympic gold medallist his third podium of the season as well.

Midol’s win also made the inevitable official, as Sunday’s win gave the 28-year-old 698 points on the season to move him 224 points clear of his teammate Jean Frederic Chapuis with only the Veysonnaz competition left to go. Finishing no lower than seventh in any Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup competition in 2018/19, Midol has had one of the best men’s ski cross seasons in World Cup history, and will be a truly deserving recipient once he is handed the crystal globe a the end of the day in Veysonnaz.

about author