Red mist over Lech Zurs clouds performances

Despite the lack of some of the head line names for the Parallel World Cup race in Lech Zurs, the second weekend of the 2021-2022 World Cup season produced some taking points as well as some great skiing. The end result saw the Austrian team take the top two places on the podium in Christian Hirschbühl taking the win ahead of his compatriot Dominik rancher with Norway taking the next two spots in the form of Atle Lie McGrath and last years runner up, Henrik Kristtoffersen in fourth. No Pinturault, Odermatt and. a host of other names meant there was a slightly subdued element to the race but there was still 100 World Cup points on offer and CHF45,000 for the winner.

Qualification in the morning saw some big names go out of the race including Gino Caviezel, Victor Muffet-Jeandet, Leif Kristian Nestvold Haugen and Filip Zubcic to name a few.

Dominik Rascher, who had a best on the World Cup of 9th before the race took the fastest time in the qualification, stormed through to the final beating Arnand Marchant, Stefan Hadalin and Atle Lie McGrath on his way to the final, pressuring all three competitors into crashing.

Time deficit issue

With the maximum penalty for a crash, DNF or DSQ being limited to half a second, the fact that the red course got faster the longer the competition went on, getting a clean run down the red course became imperative for each racer, whether racing on it first or second.

Zan Kranjec, second fastest in qualifying came unstuck in the first of the knock out rounds against Christian Hirschbühl, joint 15th fastest and only 0.03 faster than Britain's Charlie Raposo who had dropped from 4th fastest on the red course on run one to 17th fastest overall.

Hirschbühl went on to beat Trevor Philp in the second round and then took out Kristoffersen in the semi final despite having lost the first run and having to overcome the half second gap.

The decision by many of the top racers to miss the second weekend of the World Cup will be discussed and debated. The next races for the men are the speed races in Lake Louise and then Beaver Creek. Many of the racers that are speed racers will argue over the need to acclimatise to the North American snow but the pure Giant Slalom focused racers have until Val d'Isere on 11 December before the next Giant Slalom, there being no GS races in North America this season.

Course preference

The argument over the red course being noticeably faster than the blue course is the perennial problem with head to head racing. Getting absolutely equal courses is very hard. Lech Zürs have worked incredibly hard in getting the Flexen slope to be as fair as possible in terms of gradient. The fresh snow did not help and when the weather gods intervene there is little you can do.

The next issue would be the gap in terms of delay on the second leg. It currently sits at 0.50 seconds. This allowed the racer on the blue course to play the game slightly and go all guns blazing on the red course. The pressure to perform on the one course meant that the mistake could crop up. Get a good run in on the red and you could afford to be over half a second slower on the blue and not lose. Lengthening the deficit would mean more chance of racing happening but also could mean the racer leading from the first run having the opportunity to coast. There were a few cases of the half second gap being caught. Fans want to see racing.

With McGrath overcoming his teammate Kristoffersen in the small final, Raschner held the half second lead going into the second run but could not withhold the power and strength that Hirschbühl produced to take the race win, his first on the World Cup.

From having no racers in the quarter finals in the Women's event, Austria had the top two spots in the mens race. just what the sell out crowd wanted!

There is definitely a desire for the event but it will need a little more tweaking before it wins over the racers and the fans in the same volume as traditional races.

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