Alex Tilley: “I want to be back in the mix,”

Alex Tilley will be the first British racer to kick out of the start gate on the World Cup in this Olympic season. Having spent the summer training with the Evolution set up, she is now geared up to race with a lot of changes in place from last year. Tilley admits that the summer has been a lot of hard work and not everything is ‘dialled in’ but just talking to Tilley you get the feeling that she is as focussed as ever and as determined as ever to achieve the perennial season long goal and that is to make the World Cup Finals.

The big news for Tilley this season is that Tilley has made the switch to the ‘lime green rockets.’ Alongside her training partner at Team Evolution, rising British racer Darcy Mead, she has switched to Kästle skis and boots. Kästle has a strong pedigree is ski racing having been the ski of Swiss legend Pirmin Zurbriggen amongst others back in the eighties before losing its track and being bought out by the Benetton group. Tilley and Czech racer Tereza Kmochova alongside Cedric Noger of Switzerland will be the main focus for the brand.

Kästle has developed their own boot alongside the skis and Tilley spent time this summer deciding whether to swap across but felt that she was faster on the new Kaestle boot. The skis are distinctive with their lime green tips and have maintained their traditional RX12 model number from years gone by.

Tilley has bought into the brand and how it wants to achieve success: “I think they want the performances to speak for themselves rather than going out head hunting.”

tried to sign Katharina Liensberger prior to the 2019-2020 season but the deal collapsed due to her being unable to sort out a boot deal that suited the Austrian Ski Pool. No such problems for British ski racing star Alex Tilley and as a result Tilley is free to sort out her own deals. Tilley also adds Shred Helmet and Goggles, Leki UK and Level as part of her personal equipment suppliers along with Quinn Estates as her personal helmet sponsor. These of course all join Redrow as the team sponsor and Fusalp in providing her with new race and training clothing.

Tilley has already been kitted out with her new clothing from Fusalp and spoke at length about the need to feel comfortable and at ease in new clothing. This is something has a more direct bearing at the Olympics she feels as all the race suits and clothing has to have sponsors removed from it.

“With all the new kit at the Olympics, I feel so uncomfortable and feel so different. It does have a little bit of an effect,“ she explained adding I have to say that the new Fusalp kit is looking pretty good and looks smart and professional so it is a positive thing.”

Tilley paid glowing reference to the hard work of her personal sponsor, Mark Quinn of Quinn Estates in bringing new team sponsor into the fold this season. With Quinn Estates continuing the support of Tilley, Tilley is very grateful for his continued support: “I could not really do this without them,” she explains.

Last season Tilley ventured out on the Super G boards at the World Championships as well as in the Slalom and her main focus, Giant Slalom. This year she feels that if she were to just focus on the seven World Cup Giant Slalom races, it would be a very monotonous season. Both Charlie Guest and herself successfully battled back to mean GB Snowsport has two entries in the Slalom World Cup races.

“The plan is to continue with the slalom,” she explained. Tilley believed that her troubles in slalom last year were not down to equipment or training, “I think I finished about ninety per cent of my runs in training,” but she thinks it is down to her “approach on race day in slalom and a lot of that is to do with nerves.”

Tilley adds “I am trying to not waste energy on the frustration as that is a big problem for me when I think of slalom: I feel slalom is so annoying,” she grins.

In regard to the Super G plan, Tilley is honest in that she feels it was herself that has halted that plan. “If I sat down and questioned how much my heart was in Super G and believed I could be a really good Super G skier, I think I was the only one who said, I do not know if I could do it.

“GS is where my biggest potential lies, slalom I have proved before that I can do it. In training things look reasonable at least so I will give it a go,” she explains.

How does she feel about the likes of Reece Bell pushing for starting slots in the Slalom? Tilley is honest enough to say that if time trials were to force time trials for spots in a World Cup race, she would be there. “It is not a bad place to be if we have more than one person looking at a spot,” Tilley believes. It certainly shows the increased strength in depth of British ski racing that is emerging. “It is something,” Tilley believes, “that almost needs to be celebrated.”

With the Women’s World Cup kicking off the winter season, Women’s skiing is not as well publicised as the Men’s World Cup. Tilley understands why this is, especially with the achievements that Dave Ryding, Billy Major and Laurie Taylor over the last few seasons.

“When anyone is doing well, it benefits the whole of British skiing. When you saw Dave podium and what that did to the younger guys, and they thought: ‘maybe I could do something like that one day,’ it makes it much more tangible again.”

Tilley sees the younger racers on a regular basis as she trains with Team Evolution during the summer. This summer saw her hitting the Indoor slopes as well as Val Senales and Saas Fee among other training venues. “It was really good, everything was working well and the atmosphere is great there,” she explained.

With the weather having changed the texture of the snow over the last few days from “hero snow to quite icy,” Tilley explained that the snow “was good, very, very good” in the last few days before the race.

As race day has got ever closer, Tilley has worked heavily on getting the right binding and plate set up for the race. She has tried different models of ski and feels there is a model that she is using more often. She admits that she “has not found a weakness yet.”

As ever the goal for the season is to make the World Cup Finals. “I want to be back in the mix,” she explained. “Last year was on paper a big disappointment for me results wise. Not necessarily that the skiing was that bad all year, on certain days, I did not show up and a lot of DNF’s. There was a bit of bad luck at the end of the season in getting Covid and missing Jasna.

“I still feel that I am really capable of being in that thirty, certainly. I still feel I am capable of getting top fifteens,” she explained.

Tilley is a brutally honest racer and pushes herself hard. Getting into the top fifteen by the end of the season is a tough ask. Determination, support and belief are all there. The top fifteen target is realistic but out will mean a lot of things falling into place. Hopefully they will start again with the crowds back in place in Sölden for the opening race of the 2021-2022 World Cup season.

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