Braathen takes the win in Soelden

The Norwegian Team came into Soelden with the red bib with Henrik Kristoffersen and they leave the Austrian resort with the bib but now in the hands of one of their rising stars as Lucas Braathen took his first race win on the World Cup. Gino Caviezel, the first run leader, took third place with Marco Odermatt taking second.

Braathen was fifth after the first run but a mere 0.24 behind Caviezel. It would be a run one shoot out with the top ten racers all tightly bunched. Perfect conditions yet an eerie silence with the lack of a crowd to encourage the racers meant this was a unique atmosphere for a World Cup race. Take that away it was still a race full of excitement and intrigue.

Alexis Pinturault came into the race on the back of winning the last two races yet he was unable to make it a three-peat as he made mistakes on the top section on the delay gate. With such small margins between each racer after the first run, a mistake free run would be required to post a competitive time. If a mistake was made, how quickly the racer recovered would also be key.

Braathen and Marco Odermatt were separated by only seven hundredths after run one and when the Swiss racer posted the fastest time to go into the lead from seventh after the first run, the chips were down. Loic Meillard could not match his teammate and was half a second off the pace and then Braathen put in a tremendous run. Braathen made a small mistake but recovered quickly and took the lead.

As racer after racer came down, his hands held his head as he could not believe he was on the verge of history. He had lead after the first run in Kitzbuehel in the slalom last year but had trailed off to finish in fourth. This time he was doing it the other way around.

Pinturault made bigger mistakes than his time advantage allowed for and the three-peat chances evaporated. Then Kristoffersen made a mistake and slotted in behind Pinturault. Kristoffersen had relinquished the red bib. When Kranjec disappeared even further down the time lists, Braathen was in dreamland. He was definitely on the podium but would he be on the top step?

For Caviezel, this had been a new experience. Leading a race after run one is a magical feeling. You are the last racer at the start and all eyes are on you. Just ask Dave Ryding what it means.

Maybe the pressure got to the 28 year old Swiss racer but Caviezel held on to take third, his first World Cup podium, how he he would have liked to have gone that little bit better.

So two Swiss racers on the podium in Austria with their great rivals, the Austrians only posting a best result of 17th with Stefan Brennsteiner. The only good thing fort the Austrians was the perfect conditions that the television cameras were showing. The irony of Covid banning tourists from attending the race will not be lost on many.

For Braathen, he has worked hard on his mental side in the summer, he explained, and this has helped him: "I am here for podiums," he explained after exclaiming "first race, first victory... amazing."

If the old guard think this was just a one off, Braathen was asked "is the new generation coming? "You bet," he responded excitedly. Ski racing needs a new character and Braathen looks like he will be that person.

Despite winning the race, Braathen will start in the second group (8 - 15) in the next Giant Slalom in Val d'Isere, a double header on 5 and 6 December down the less brutal La Daille slope rather than the Face extremities.

For Charlie Raposo the race was not a great memory as he finished in 54th on the first run. Raposo came into the race in good form and confident but starting 60th was always going to be a tough call for the British racer. This winter could be a tough programme for all the racers but with Raposo needing to improve his FIS points to get a better start number on the World Cup, picking his races will be key.

After the race, Raposo explained: "It was not the execution that I wanted, it happens sometimes. It is better that it happens now, the 18th October rather than in December. I am disappointed as things have been really sold in the last few weeks leading up to this. I really wanted to bring my best skiing, it was a difficult job today regardless of whether I brought good skiing or bad skiing. The highest bib in was bib 40.

"I was a lot further behind than I wanted to be despite what mistake happen," Raposo continued.

"I do not need to go back to the drawing board, things are in the right place, it is just a case of redialing it in and waiting for December to roll around when there is a lot more racing all at the same time. Then I hope the wheels will be rolling nicely!" Raposo continued.

"In all this was not the weekend I wanted as we struggled with issues in training yesterday but things were looking great on Thursday. Just need to pick up, regroup and press on."

Next stop is Lech Zurs for the Parallel races in a month (13 - 14 November).

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