Noel defends Chamonix title in exciting race

Clement Noel backed up his win on the same slope in the last Slalom World Cup race of last season. Chamonix has good memories for the French racer as he won this time time from Ramon Zenhaeusern and Marco Schwartz with Luca Aerni so nearly carrying out a back to front race win in taking fourth. Michael Matt took fifth with Britain's Dave Ryding, sponsored by Quinn Estates taking 11th.

This was definitely a race of two runs in more ways than one. Schwartz took the initiative on the first run closely followed by Zenhaeusern and Noel. These three were comfortably ahead of the rest of the field with many of the top racers struggling; to cope with the conditions. Falling snow, a common occurrence on the World Cup slalom tour recently, at the start changed to rain by the finish. Hard work by the course workers got the race going but the course was soon deteriorating, making qualification for those outside the top 30, brutally hard.

JB Grange looked to have timed qualification to perfection as he made it in in 30th, giving him a clean course from which to attack. His second run saw him make a mistake midway down and then he struggled to really attack and was off the pace.

Those that started in the top five on the second run, the common consensus agreed, would have an ideal opportunity to make a race of it. Luca Aerni, challenging for a spot on the Swiss Slalom team for the World Championships took his opportunity and posted the fastest time on the second run to embed himself in the leaders enclosure. the challenge had been set and Aerni showed how to do it.

With every challenger though the conditions deteriorated and it became a race decided how the racer dealt with the ruts.

From 19th after the first run, Ryding knew that he had to give it his all if he was to make a fist of it. The opportunity to at least hold his own was there and despite a few awkward gates, Ryding attacked with finesse and guile to go into third. The gap was just over three quarters of a second but he was in the finish in a good state.

The Quinn Estates racer explained after his run that "I tried" and it was then a case of see what the rest could do. He has admitted in the past that he prefers the hard snow that has been seen only at Adelboden this season and the soft conditions at Zagreb and here he struggles on. This was a performance that he adapted to the conditions. How would he be rewarded?

They came and they went. The harder racers tried, the more time they hemorrhaged. The pack kept getting shuffled and Ryding was hanging in there at the business end of the results sheet eventually finishing in 11th.

With three to go Aerni was still leading despite the deficit that ha had had to overcome from the first run. It was definitely an advantage having gone early on the second run rather then having built up a lead from the first. The top three from the first run were only separated by 0.03 seconds so iy was now a one run shoot out and whoever blinked first would drop off the pace.

Noel was the first to better the time of the Swiss racer but his advantage was severely reduced. Zenhaeusern was next up. He had gone first on the first run and was now having to deal with a course that had seen 28 racers go before him. Ruts flew him out of them and when in the air he was losing time and Noel managed to hold on to the lead.

Schwartz knew that if he won he would be that bit closer to wrapping up the Tour Globe before the World Championships. Going last he knew that the course was rock and roll, he had to battle if the dream was to stay on track. The run was good but he still dropped to third.

This was cruel on Aerni who dropped out of the podium places but could now have done enough to secure a place on the Swiss team for the World Championships. Daniel Yule will need to do something serious in the last race before the decisions are made, Yule finished in 15th.

For the three Quinn Estates racers, Ryding was relieved with salvaging 11th after a disappointing first run that had seen him in 19th. His second run was 4th fastest from going in the middle of the pack which will give him a good feeling. Ryding is one of six racers to have scored points in every round of the World Cup this year and stays in 11th in the season long standings as well as the World Cup Start List.

Billy Major posted two super impressive split times that had him in the top thirty. On the second section Major posted the 28th best time but it was his run into the finish that saw him post a huge encouraging 15th fastest split. Major crossed the line from his start number of 50, into 34th and ended up in 35th. With a race in the morning, he will have the encouragement to go faster.

Laurie Taylor has spent many years training in Les Houches (where the race was held, just outside Chamonix) and will have skied oh the slope many times in the ten years he trained with the British Ski Academy when they were based in Les Houches. From the moment he broke the wand at the top you could see that he was up for a good performance. Sometimes the desire to do well is too great and Taylor was just over the edge in the desire to be on point. Taylor finished in a disappointing 56th spot.

Marco Schwartz stays in the red bib as the series leader with lead now of 162 points over Sebastian Foss-Solevaag

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