WORLD CUP MEN- REVIEW AND A LOOK AHEAD
The overall globe race went down to the wire, sort of. While it was great to see Feuz but up a fight, the race fizzled at the end and Hirscher won the big globe. When you look at the top 5 in the overall, you see a group of guys who were not scoring high in 4 disciplines, which is pretty unusual. At the very least, someone who can compete for the big points in at least 3 disciplines is the one on top. But Hirscher really only scored big in 2 disciplines and scored no combined points. And Feuz did the same, just in the two disciplines that Hirscher doesn’t ski. They both scored 30 points in the City Event so that didn’t make a difference. The questions for me for the overall for next year are: Will Aksel return to the top in GS and therefore be able to compete in the Overall? Will he be able to return to point scoring in Slalom? I doubt the slalom return, it takes too much training volume and rarely do veterans of 30 years old make slalom comebacks. Will Hirscher pursue more SG after the big score in Schladming? It would seem like he should as he can get some testing and training done on one trip to Chile and some work in October and November on the glaciers. And if he can make himself a manageable schedule, he could score enough SG points to really put a lock on the Overall for years to come. Is Ivica going to be ready to go? He is 33 years old and has a long injury history. Eventually, all of those surgeries take their toll. They take their toll in pain, but also in training volume. Ivica has always been a training volume monster. He is used to legendary amounts of volume and days on snow. There were summers when he would ski 30 straight days in Hintertux. But injuries cut into the ability to get that repetition. But at this point in his career, does he even need that kind of volume? Just because he has always done that, does it mean he needs to continue to do so? And what about the speed program? Again, can he get the volume he needs? And does his ski company have the speed program to support an all-out assault on the Overall? I think Ivica concentrates on slalom and tries to win that smaller globe. Will Miller return to form? Will he return at all? Will the 35m GS ski drive him away from GS and into the speed specialist world? Will Feuz clean up his tech skiing so he can compete in a world where Hirscher is scoring SG points? To me, the dark horse for the Overall is Kjetil Jansrud. But he has to answer some questions too. Can he put his history of back pain behind him? Can he train slalom and GS enough this preparation period to be a player in GS and score enough slalom points to compete? I am sure that he has the talent. He just needs to be healthy enough to train all the disciplines and participate fully in the schedule. And as good as Ted is in GS, what has happened to the goal and plan to win the Overall? He is certainly a good enough skier to compete in 4 disciplines and combined. What is the missing ingredient? He was 15th in slalom this year which is the best he has been since 2008. In 2006 he was 4th, which was his breakthrough year in GS too. Anyway, Ted has never scored 1000 points in a season, and you can’t win the Overall without scoring 1000 points. So he needs to get his slalom up to his GS standards again as well as getting himself a few hundred speed points if he is going to compete for the big globe.
Who is the DH champ? Was it Klaus Kroell? Yes it was and it was by 7 points over Beat Feuz. Feuz made a great run at a number of titles but didn’t win any of them. He was 2nd in Combined, 2nd in DH, 3rd in SG and 2nd in the Overall. Kroell is a Downhiller. He is pure speed. He has done well at times in Super G but it seems only when the SG is close to a DH. Anyway, I am not taking anything away from him. When he needed wins to make the DH globe dream happen, he made it happen. Congratulations? And next season? With no Cuche to compete with, is it Kroell’s globe to lose in Downhill? I think that Feuz served notice that he can be in the hunt all season long. He only lost by 7 points! After Cuche, there was quite a drop-off in the standings. I know that if Miller is back in shape for the season, that he can compete for the DH globe. He can win on the tough hills and he can glide with the best. And he has more of the Head speed quiver at his disposal. Who else can compete? Maybe Reichelt, or Guay, or Svindal? But what about a new guy like Feuz this year? Did anyone really give us a peek at what they might have in store for next season? Maybe a guy likes Ben Thomsen, or Puchner? One thing I do think about the Downhill discipline on the men’s side, we need a multi-athlete battle and someone with star-power to challenge every week. We need a 3rd, 4th and 5th guy to step up into the fray.
It seems like a terrible thing to say, but I sort of felt like no one really stepped up and WON this title. Svindal pulled it together at Kvitfjell but was lucky there was a rescheduled SG there so he could take advantage of the home hill by finishing 2ndand 5th. He won only 1 SG race and that was in Lake Louise in November, so it sort of was forgotten. And he won the title by finishing out of the points in Schladming. It just kind of had that feel, like no one really won it. So looking ahead: Cuche is gone, will Miller return to form at 35 years of age? Will Hudec back-up his excellent SG season? Can Benni Raich make a transition to more speed in his program? His slalom is struggling, and at 34 years old, that is normal. But Benni is a talented enough skier and a hard worker. He can transform himself into a Super G skier if he so chooses. But again, this discipline is wide open and waiting for Beat Feuz and Kjetil Jansrud to walk through the door to win the globe. Do I think Svindal can win it again? Of course, but I really want him to WIN it!
The GS globe was a great 2 man battle. Hirscher and Ligety won 7 of the contested World Cup GS races. Ted scored more GS points than in any of his globe-winning seasons and finished 2nd. This is a testament to Hirscher’s speed but also his consistency. Hirscher was relentless all season long and in the end, Ted just couldn’t hang with him. The questions out there for me are more about equipment? It is obvious that Ted has already figured it out. It is also obvious that the new ski is faster. If you read what I wrote last fall, it is all coming true. And where there is room to set more open distances, it will get done and speeds will be higher. The 35m skis are faster. When I was with the USST and working with Dane Spencer to make some GS skis with Elan, we built some 192, 33m skis. Pretty close to what we are seeing now. And they were the fastest skis in his quiver and he had his best results of his life that season, including 7th at the World Championships in Bormio. So what has FIS done? Made GS more dangerous and more of an unknown. What is the real motivation to mess with the radii of GS skis? To make GS revert to skiing in the 1980s? The problem is, everyone who is still performing at the top of the World Cup grew up with shape in their skis, and they are going to figure out how to ski as they always have on skis with less shape. All we are seeing so far are faster runs on the new skis (Ted’s 2nd run at Schladming) and 2 ACL injuries ALREADY! Ok, enough of this, I will write a whole article on this soon. Maybe after 2 more guys blow their knees out?
So who is in the mix next season? Again, Hirscher and Ted. Jansrud if he can stay healthy enough to train all summer. I think Fritz Dopfer is ready to make a run at it. He came up through Europa Cup with Hirscher and I think he likely sees himself as able to compete with Hirscher. He has a good set-up and he is a very solid and consistent skier. Pinturault? Maybe, but he is not consistent enough for me. I thought Schoerghofer would make a move last year but he sort of disappointed. Can Janka make a comeback? Looking at the standings from this season, I think we will see another battle between Ted and Marcel.
I saved the best for last because honestly, that was the best finish to a globe race I have ever seen. The circumstances that had to happen to have Andre Myhrer win the globe was so unlikely that I barely even mentioned it going into the finals. What a great season for Andre. It really could not have happened to a nicer guy on the World Cup. I have so much respect and admiration for him as a skier and I hope he can back it up. And the fact that it happened at Schladming for him is amazing as Schladming is really where Andre made his big breakthrough. Next year? Kostelic, Hirscher and DeVille can all compete. Kostelic is getting older and will need to get healthy to get his normal volume. Is there someone who can make a run at the slalom globe who was not really in the mix this season? I have to look at Dopfer again. He is solid, consistent and fast. Watch out for him if he can put together a good preparation period. As far as our slalom program is concerned? I don’t know. There is a shake-up in the staff and we will see what that does. But Ted’s slalom seems to be coming around again, finally. Nolan is as good a slalom specialist as we have had in recent memory but needs to be 100% healthy and we need to get him up into the seed for him to have a chance to make a run at the top.
Look for more coming up!
FIS RULE CHANGES
GS SKI INJURIES
US SKI TEAM STAFF SHAKE UP
ATHLETE EQUIPMENT CHANGES AND WHAT THAT MIGHT MEAN
AMERICAN CHANCES-A LOOK DEEPER IN THE ROSTER