It is all systems go again

After 616 days of World Cup racing with no crowds, the opening race of the 2021-2022 FIS Audi Alpine World Cup kicks off in Sölden on Saturday 23rd October. Excitement, adrenaline and joy are just three of the words that will used as a limited number of people are allowed up on to the Rettenbach Glacier to witness the racing first hard, for the rest of us, it will be viewing by TV, just like last season. It was 216 days ago that the Women finished racing so the excitement is high.

Sölden is one of the few slopes that sees the Men and Women race down the same slope and the steep pitch and long flat in legendary for the Giant Slalom racers. The conditions are brutal for all bar the very early racers. Britain’s Charlie Raposo has spoken this week about the importance of being able to send the ski into the turn and hold it. Only the very first racers get the smooth course and as the course starts to deteriorate, so too does the courage of the racer need to grow in sending the ski into the turn. This is not a hill for the feint hearted.

Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova come in to the new season in the Women’s Giant Slalom looking to start the season on a high. Vlhova, winner of the Overall Globe last season, has a new coach, she has linked up with Mauro Pini, past mentor to José Rienda Contreras, Lara Gut-Behrami and Tina Maze as well as the Swiss National Team. The deal is for one season at the moment but this could be extended.

While she took four medals at the World Championships in February in 2021, Mikaela Shiffrin comes into the new season as one of the main focal points of attention. A new relationship with Alexander Aamodt Kilde, the Norwegian star, caught mush of the media attention over the summer but Shiffrin is focussed and ready to get back to business after a tough eighteen months that saw her father pass away suddenly and then dealing with the Covid pandemic that deprived the World Cup of any races in North America. Three wins last season and finishing runner up in both GS and Slalom was not a bad return on top of the medals in Cortina!

The Globe in Giant Slalom last year was won by Italian Marta Bassino. Bassino started strongly with four wins and had two more podium results to win the Globe by 126 points. The first Globe is a great achievement, defending it is even harder many will attest to.

In winning the last race of the season, Alice Robinson showed the World that she is a force to be reckoned with. Lenzerheide saw her win her third GS on the World Cup and having won her first in Sölden back in 2019, Robinson knows how to ski the slope fast. Still only 19, Robinson is definitely a contender on her day.

Who else is in the mix for glory in the first race? You can never count out Federica Brignone. The Overall winner in 2020-2021 may have only win one race last season but she is still a calculating racer and one to be reckoned with. The Italian team are strong and with Bassino and Sofia Goggia, they will do all they can to make sure it is an Italian on the podium come Saturday afternoon. The Italians won nine World Cup races last season!

Add the likes of Lara Gut-Behrami, Katherina Liensberger, Sofia Goggia to the mix and if the weather Gods shine, it will be a great spectacle again. No Wendy Holdener or Corinne Suter as both Swiss racers are injured and will miss the opening race of the season. Nici Schmidhofer from the Austrian team is also still on the comeback trail as is Norway’s rising star Kajsa Lie.

With Vlhova announcing that the Olympics are her priority this season and that she will miss some events with this in mind, Shiffrin too has admitted that she will miss some races as well. Both will be re-engaging in competition as the new season starts!

With Alex Tilley going for Great Britain, put the Eurosport on and watch the racing this Saturday! Read Alex’s interview with Racer Ready here

Full start list is here.

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