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GS mid-season Top10


Lara Gut-Behrami


NOTE: Kronplatz’s 30 January GS widened LG-B’s lead to 85 points over Fede, from 25 before the race. This GS discussion retains its relevance, IMO.

Except for choosing best GS races, I finished this Sunday before learning how badly Valerie Grenier was hurt in her Super G fall that day. She’s OFS. Cortina was a brutal meet. Will opine.


    I was way down in the dumps from late November to about a week ago. Bronchitis and its attendant/lingering assault upon my stamina and spirits; general depression, against which I’ve struggled for forty years give or take, retarded this site’s progress. Also, recent World events and November 5th’s specter in the USA lessened ski racing’s importance for me. I’m committed to the WAWC project, however, and sport’s escapist invitation offers succor. Also it may help me feel better. The main thing though is WAWC’s many delightful characters. Following them is an extremely vicarious pleasure—but imaginary engagement is one of my favorite abilities.  

    Writing this (partial) bullshit has already perked me up.

    What I’ll do next is take stock of the four Disciplines’ general mid-season conditions. GS is first, as seven of twelve scheduled races have been run. Slalom will be next Feature post (8 of 12). Speed will take a couple weeks further, as only four Super Gs and five Downhills have gotten off due to weather postponement and to cancellation. We’ll see.

    The discussions will focus upon the top ten points leaders and how their performances, IMO, bode for EOS results. This season’s BEST RACE, IMO, cited for each skier; may also refer to Pre-Season notes to see how/if my intuition anticipated reality. I’m releasing a pre-emptive sigh.

    Here we go.

 

    Mikaela Shiffrin dominated GS in 2023—EOS 800 points to Lara Gut-Behrami’s second-place 532. Then 56 points separate LG-B from 5th place (Federica Brignone). AFAICT, GS is usually the most closely-contested Discipline…except when you-know-who cuts loose. (She stomped everyone in 2019 as well.) Shiffrin’s return following her Cortina hurt knee is on everyone's mind, but WAWC life continues.

    As of today Sunday, 28 January, the GS tussle is tightly bound: LG-B 485 points; Fede 460; Mikaela 429. Then a 57-point drop to 4th, with 30- to 80-point gaps down to 10th.

    Lara Gut-Behrami is reminding us why she’s very arguably still WAWC’s 2nd – best Overall racer, as she has been for two of the past three completed seasons. She’s cooking Giant Slalom! 2x1st; 2x2nd; 5th; 2x6th. Lara’s such a pro. Dialed in like this, GS title is hers to lose. She’ll win it.

BEST RACE Killington 25 November. 1st from bib 7. Third both runs. -0.62 from Alice Robinson 2nd. I bet she digs winning in New England—ski racing upstarts should stick to making syrup.

 

    Fede strenuously disagrees. 2x1st; 2x2nd; 3d; 6th says so, IHO. Jasna’s DNF is so far the difference. 25 points are easily dispatched, theoretically. Gut-Behrami and Brignone going to the GS mat may well be WAWC 2024 ‘s finest entertainment. Remix Shiffrin into the stew, and each tuber and shoot will be perfectly succulent.

BEST RACE  Fede triumphed in Mt. Tremblant’s 2xGS meet. I pick Sunday’s race—1st from bib 4. Fastest 1st run and third fastest 2nd run to take it -0.21 from Petra’s charge.


    We know Mikaela will miss Tuesday evening’s GS at Kronplatz. Apparently her Cortina-tweaked knee is very sore but untorn. I reckon she’ll skip Garmisch DH & SG next weekend, aiming for Soldeu SL & GS February 10th-11th.  Missing one race won’t drop MS from the GS title hunt. Lara may, however, put her behind the Eight Ball with a Kronplatz podium. (Two days after 3-race Cortina Speed meet. Brutal turn-around.)

BEST RACE Lienz 28 December. Fastest 1st run by 0.63, then won by -0.38 despite 17th fastest 2nd run. Textbook MO: ski well enough to hold lead .

   

    Sara Hector, in 4th place with 372 points, is continuing her WC renaissance. Beloved on the circuit, she’s on a GS tear—1st; 3d; 3x4th; 6th— with a 12th the only slip. (She’s in the Slalom runner-up hunt as well.) The GS title is probably beyond her grasp, but not her reach, so Heaven’s purposeful. Consistency should ensure EOS 5th at the least; if Valerie Grenier and/or Alice Robinson turn it on, Sara will be in a sharp tussle. Keep up T6 finishes with no DNFs and she has 4th, I bet.

BEST RACE Jasna 20 January. Annihilated field on a fast, hard course. 1st x 2 runs to beat Her Highness (2nd x 2 runs) by 1.52. (I wonder how many folks haven’t won Tech races in which they were 2nd both runs. Very, very rare I bet.)


Sara Hector - Jasna

 


    5th place (327 pts) is Valerie Grenier, Canada’s top WAWC competitor. EOS GS 7th 2023, she’s putting together another dandy season. 1st; 4th through 8th (straight flush if Slalom); 11th. In the running for 4th and maybe better if MS falls off a bit. (1 Feb. Goddamn it. OFS. How do these kids stand it? I so hope she recovers okay and contends again. Another top talent’s career interrupted, more than once, by severe injury.)

BEST RACE Kranjska Gora 6 Jan. 1st place from bib 3. 1st run 4th fastest; 2nd run fastest. Toe-to-toe with Gut-Behrami ( 3d & 5th fastest runs), won by -0.37. Superb effort in soft, tricky conditions.

Valerie Grenier - Kranjska Gora

 

    Petra Vlhova currently stands GS 6th (297 pts). Losing her for the season defiles my pleasure.

Don’t want to discuss it.  2nd through 5th; 7th; 10th; DNF….

BEST RACE Mt. Tremblant was a struggle in the wind, fog, dodgy snow. Petra’s 2nd from bib 6, with 4th and 1st (fastest) runs, was a highlight of this entertaining meet. She stuck it 2nd run.

 

    And now, Miss Robinson. 7th position (252 pts) isn’t bad per se—except that Alice’s 2020 and 2021 brilliant flashes—especially Lenzerheide 3 March 2021—made EOS podium a benchmark to be met by now. This season’s 2nd; 3d; 8th; 2x9th; 12th; DNF is decent rejuvenation…thus far. She’s within striking distance of 5th with a couple of podiums and Valerie faltering. No way she’ll catch Sara. In a Peanuts cartoon, Linus declares “There’s no greater burden than a great potential!” Alice’s potential-to-performance will be scrutinized again next season. I’m not sweating it, and neither should she: the kid turned 22 two weeks ago.

BEST RACE Going with Killington—even given Tuesday’s excellent 2nd at Kronplatz. Killington was 2nd from bib 9. 1st & 9th fastest. Sandwiched between winner LG-B (3d & 3d), and MS in third, Alice skied a solid 2nd run to beat HH by -0.19. Fine composure to take care of business against world’s best.

 

    Zrinka Ljutic’s 8th place (177 pts) reveals a quiet but effective (and expected by her team) break-out season. Zrinka’s been 20 for two days; last year her GS was 19th; 25th; 2xDNF; 3xDNQ at her birthday. Now she’s 4th (at Jasna last weekend); 7th; 10th; 13th; 2x14th; 22nd. Every race finished and in the points. That Ljutic is 8th this late in the season with just 3xT10 shows how important eliminating DNFs is, and how modest but consistent finishes can place a racer highly even within WAWC’s most competitive event. Zrinka’s a major young talent.

BEST RACE Jasna 20 January. Excellent 4th from bib 12. 4th and 9th fastest runs. Solid territory to build upon.

 

    9th with 160 points, Sofia Goggia’s having her best GS season, by far, since 2017’s superb/surprising(?) EOS GS 3d. (I’m considering Goggia’s GS within Overall context, since her exquisite Speed talent still requires full-on GS to contend.) She’s pushing hard-core for EOS Overall podium. Definitely in the running. Beating out MS, LG-B, Fede, and Michelle is a tall order. With Petra out, though, Sofia could rank 4th fairly comfortably if Michelle doesn’t bump up GS and DH. If 3-Discipliners Grenier and/or Mowinckel get hot though—and they’re both warming up—Goggia could be tested. Her current leads over Valerie (273 pts) and Ragnhild (350) will bring her home 4th I’m quite sure. Lead from Michelle (172) is most vulnerable.

    BEST RACE Mt. Tremblant 2 December. 7th from bib 18. First run 9th; second run 6th.

    +1.62 behind winner Brignone. (Superb 5th at Kronplatz on Tuesday. 8th first run, then SECOND 2nd run! It’s fun to see her excited by improving GS finishes, since anything less than victory in Speed is a drag.)

    Sofia’s competitive intensity is pegged this season. She believes she can win Overall title. A couple lucky breaks in her favor, another DNF or two from Lara and from Fede; Michelle stalling; Her Highness not regaining full form…it could happen. Italy would detach from Europe and ascend to celebrate with Raphael’s angels.

 

    Thea Louise Stjernesund is in 10th place with 147 points. In her sixth WAWC season for Norway, Stjernesund’s a Tech fixture with 95 starts. GS is her stronger discipline—2022 EOS 17th; 2023 EOS 10th. So far she’s up/down: 2x5th; 9th; 20th; 2xT27. Another racer whose solid habit of finishing races puts her in good Discipline ranking stead despite so-so results. Thea Louise’s 5th places are from the most recent races, so she’s upswinging.

BEST RACE Jasna 20 January. 5th from bib 13. 9th and 3d fastest runs. Very good. Gotta keep it up. (Kronplatz 21st regression. Very cautious, rote runs. 19th & 22nd.)


    Before I go, quick mention of two other GS competitors.

    Marta Bassino in 11th place with 143 points shouldn’t be the case. She’s one of WAWC’s most talented competitors, with a superb GS track record: 2021 to 2023 EOS 1st; 5th; 3d. DNFs appear, though. One in 2021, three in 2022, one in 2023. Bassino’s 2024: 5th; 6th; 8th; 10th; 2xDNF; DNQ. As must be often the case, my position beyond the hinterlands and behind well-fed Tirol farm beasts, possible explanations for WAWC athletes’ sub-par performances elude me. During the Cortina meet this weekend, Steve Perino mentioned that Marta parted ways with her long-time ski tech. No details why schism occurred, but disruption of a racer’s technical team can certainly affect her performance. Hopefully Marta will score well in the season’s final races—DH and SG as well as GS—and she’ll finish EOS Overall T10, where she belongs. As I’m learning, however, if you believe fifteen racers should be in the Top 10, you’re always sure something’s amiss.

    Ragnhild Mowinckel’s modest 93 points for 16th place masks one of my fave’s steady recovery from a fraught early season. Disqualified from first GS for FIS-banned fluorinated wax appearing on her skis via last year’s now-contaminated prep tool (as the story goes), she then struggled to crack GS T10, doing so last weekend at Jasna. Situation thus far: 8th; 13th; 2xT20; 21st; 26th; DSQ.

Chance for a good EOS GS rank has flown the coop, but Mowinckel’s busting out in Speed—7th place DH & SG—after languid early SG, and a sordid DH start jazzed by her first WAWC DH victory, Saturday at Cortina. My point is that top-rank racers may be squishy in one usually T10 Discipline but will bull through with their other strengths. I really hope Ragnhild sticks around for 2026 Olympics before heading off to university. Her retirement will lessen our joy. 



   Mt. Tremblant 2 December 2023 - 1st Brignone; 2nd Vlhova; 3d Shiffrin

   

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