Salzgeber looks at the World Championships in St Moritz
After the last of the main racers was completed in Garmisch Partenkirchen, all eyes started to look at the National Team selections.
With only four racers from each nation allowed to race plus the defending World Champion, the racers that secure a ticket to go to St Moritz, was something that was outside of the control of Rainer Salzgeber and his team of technicians and personnel. Salzgeber is the Racing Manager for the World Cup Rebels race programme and feels that the racers on the HEAD products have a great opportunity in the one off race situation.
The World Championships start with the speed events. “In the last two speed events we podiumed,” Salzgeber commented, “but without winning.” With Beat Feuz having won both of the World Cup Finals speed races at the end of the 2016 season, Salzgeber has high hopes for him. Feuz was so close to winning in Kitzbuehel before a slight error of line judgement.
Salzgeber is not looking too much at the form of the last two weekends on the World Cup. He feels that the conditions will be different. Both Kitzbuehel and Garmisch saw much different conditions than what is expected in St Moritz. Kjetil Jansrud echoes this thought as St Moritz is also a different type of course that suits his style of skiing and allows the racer to “do his thing rather than just fighting the course,” Jansrud explained after Garmisch.
With no title to defend in the men’s race, Salzgeber is quietly optimistic despite not having Aksel Lund Svindal in the races. “Svindal is our benchmark,” Salzgeber explained.
Despite a problem on the second run for Alexis Pinturault in the Giant Slalom in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Salzgeber believes “we are in a good way going into St Moritz.” In Men’s Giant Slalom, Salzgeber feels with Pinturault, Mathieu Faivre and Matts Olsson all skiing well, there is a good possibility of continuing the success that has seen Ted Ligety win the last three Giant Slalom World Championships on HEAD skis and boots.
With the aggressive snow that is expected in St Moritz, Salzgeber knows that Olsson can handle these types of conditions as can Pinturault and Faivre. Salzgeber commented “I think we can be really positive on this.”
If the conditions can be uniform down the course, Salzgeber is more upbeat about prospects in all disciplines: “I hope that we do not have the conditions that we had in the last two speed weekends. I hope that FIS is not making that mistake where they have grippy turns and full slick turns as that is stupid.”
Alexis Pinturault showed his all-round skills in retaining the Alpine Combined Globe on the World Cup. Kjetil Jansrud and Beat Feuz can also be expected to challenge defending title holder Marcel Hirscher.
On the women’s front, the timing of Anna Veith returning to the podium in Super G was a great morale booster. The form of Lara Gut and Lindsey Vonn as well means that Salzgeber has three racers that could produce in the speed races. Lara Gut has won on the World Cup in both Super G and Downhill, Vonn has won in Downhill. Salzgeber is delighted with the form being shown by Veith in both speed disciplines.
“Veith’s downhill in Cortina was really great, after bing out by roughly 1.5 seconds is nothing. I expect good skiing from her in St Moritz as the conditions should be better for her than in a lot of different places she has been like Semmering and Kronplatz,” Salzgeber said.
“Veith has some more days to prepare and she will have realised why it is so perfect for her, she does not have to do anything special, she just has to ski down and attack full gas. Then I think she can definitely be amongst the fastest,” Salzgeber continued.
With Sara Hector also returning to form in the Women’s Giant Slalom after over a year out from injury, the form book on a one day race is hard to call. One mistake and all the preparation and hard work for the race can be ruined. With Anna Veith racing as the defending champion and Lara Gut also a proven race winner on the World Cup, there is a strong HEAD World Cup Rebels team expected on the Women’s GS start list.
The final weekend sees the slalom races and with Wendy Holdener in excellent form having scored a multitude of podiums this season, hopes are high for her. A home crowd to support and cheer her on, could tip the balance in her favour. The injury to Andre Myhrer has affected the hopes in the mens race but Alexis Pinturault and Jonathan Nordbotten both have outside chances. Myhrer won the Slalom at the World Cup Finals last season.
Salzgeber believes that the Men’s team should return with more medals than the Women’s as it is stronger in terms of numbers. In all the races apart from maybe the Men’s Slalom, Salzgeber believes “there are good chances to make medals. I hope that in the whole preparation period for St Moritz the boys and girls are staying healthy. We have good chances with the girls as well, in the men’s we have so many good racers in the team.
“The World Championships are only one day of racing,” Salzgeber explained.