Vlhova makes it three on the bounce on Women's World Cup

Petra Vlhova continued her extraordinary run of form in taking her third win on the bounce in the Women's Alpine skiing World Cup. So nearly out in three of the knock out rounds of the Parallel Giant Slalom at Lech Zürs, the Slovakian super star powered her way all the way to the final where she beat a surprised American Paula Moltzan. Lara Gut-Behrami powered past Sara Hector in the small final.

New Format

This was, as most races on the World Cup this season, a race with no fans. The high octane parallel racing that has been witnessed in the past was still there but there were no fans to encourage and support the racers. The new format for this season was a success as it levelled out the conditions will all rounds taking place down both courses. Qualification was worked out by the top 16 combined times over both runs. With the qualification runs being run two by two, using the same starting system that would be used for the knock out rounds, this gave the racers an early practice on the starts required for the knock out round. It was this situation that saw some of the big names of Women's World Cup racing, including Wendy Holdener, Sofia Goggia and Alice Robinson all fail to make the top 16. Alex Tilley also fell foul of the system with a poor start on the second run that scuppered her chances of making the top 16, according to her coach, Noel Baxter.

Knock out round 1

The biggest seed to go in round one was rising Austrian star Franziska Gritsch who had qualified in sixth place. The 'reward for making in to the top 16 was a race off against the Overall World Cup Champion from last season, Federica Brignone.

The biggest shock came in the first of the two runs when Vlhova was beaten by Dutch racer Adriana Jelenkova by 0.16. Jelenkova, racing on the Kástle brand, race Vlhova a run for the first run down the blue course but when the roles were reversed, Vlhova just edged her out by 0.04 overall. This was the closest result of the first round.

Big names were setting their stalls out and with skidoos taking the racers back up to the start straight away after their race, there was just enough time to catch the breath before racing again. This was great for the television viewing but tough work for the racers.

Knock out quarter finals

With the first round sorted out, it was into the race for the top eight places. Those that had been knocked out in the first round of the Knock out stage were placed in the order of their qualification time. From now on the racers would be racing in knock out format whether they won or lost a round.

Gut-Behrami comfortably beat another of the young Austrians, Elisa Moerzinger on both legs in the first race, before Paula Moltzan overturned a 0.22 deficit to beat Marta Bassino by eight hundredths.

The closest race of the night though came in the next race when Federica Brignone came up against Petra Vlhova, defending Overall champion against the leader this season so far. In the first race, Brignone took the lead but came to regret getting the timing of her arm reach out wrong when Vlhova overturned her slender 0.02 lead on the second run to edge out Brignone by just 0.04 overall. This was close racing and you could see the dismay on the Italians face when she saw how close it had been. Instead of racing for a minimum of 50 points, the best Brignone could salvage in the race for the overall was 45.

The last of the quarter finals saw Sara Hector hold off a second run charge from Thea Louise St Jernesund who came back from a 0.43 deficit to be edged out by 0.09.

The winners went on to the Big Semi Final races, the losers went to fight it out for 5th to 8th place.

Semi Finals

First up were the two small semi finals with Moerzinger losing out to Bassino first of all and then just as she seemed to be heading to an all Italian 5th 6th race off, Brignone crashed letting in the the Norwegian St Jernesund.

The two main semi final racers were Rossignol skis against Head skis, Gut-Behrami, the fastest qualifier against the surprise package in Paula Moltzan, and Petra Vlhova, the comeback Queen in her racing against the solid and strong Sara Hector.

Moltzan took the first race in the first semi final and held on to take the first place in the final before Vlhova yet again came from behind to take the second place in the final. Rossignol racers powering past their Head counterparts.

The Finals

And so it was quickly into the finals with little time to rest or prepare. The 21 gate course meant the skidoos took the racers up the hill quickly.

Again it was two runs and this time Brignone got it all right as she rescued her night in beating Moetzinger.

Bassino just edged out St Jernesund in the first leg before showing her class to win by just under half a second for fifth.

Gut-Behrami went on to win the battle of the Head racers in taking third ahead of Hector.

And then the big final. Vlhova, on a roll of two race wins, could she make it three against a.racer that had never been on a World Cup podium in her career. Moltzan's best result coming into the race was tenth in Sölden this season; this was only her 35th World Cup start. as she admitted between runs, she could hardly believe her fortune in getting so far.

Vlhova showed just what a class act she is as she won the first run comfortably before putting the pressure on the American and forcing her into a mistake and out of the race. Win for Vlhova.

The conditions were amazing at Lech Zeurs. "It was really good, the snow conditions were unbelievable," said Paula. "The snow held up for every round, so that was a really nice thing to experience as well as the lights were awesome. Obviously, we were missing the crowd, but I had a great group of teammates cheering me on in the finish."

What did Moltzan want to do first to celebrate her first podium on Thanksgiving? Call her mum, of course. "I'm kind of overwhelmed, but I'm really lucky and really excited to have a great team to share it with, so I'm excited to see all of them and get the hugs...and I can't wait to talk to my mom," she said with a big smile.

Vlhova was tired after the final run and was really thankful for the support of her team.

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