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Racers prepare for numerous slalom races ahead of world championships

Racers prepare for numerous slalom races ahead of world championships

The men's World Cup technical racers had better be on form. They'll be racing almost a third of the season's slalom races this week.
With warm weather affecting the season's schedule, three slalom races will be held in the next four days. A pair of slaloms are slated for Saturday and Sunday in Kitzbuehel, and another for Tuesday night under floodlights in nearby Schladming.
"I'm happy to have a chance to race," Olympic slalom champion Benjamin Raich said. "As we've seen this season, sometimes it's not so easy to get the races in. We just have to accept it."
There are 10 slaloms on the World Cup calendar this season and the four races already held have had four different winners from three nations: Sweden, Austria and Switzerland.
The season's strange climate has led to an uncertain pecking order in tight-gate discipline.
Markus Larsson of Sweden tops the slalom standings with 225 points, followed by Raich with 180. Defending World Cup discipline champion Giorgio Rocca of Italy, who's struggled with knee pain all season, is third on 150.
While the season-opening race at Levi, Finland, was universally considered fair, the snow was badly chopped up at the following slalom in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At Alta Badia, Italy, the snow was also soft and it rained in Adelboden, Switzerland, making the course slushy.
"We had funny races with bad conditions this season," Larsson said. "It's tough to say who's the best slalom skier right now. Raich is really strong, Rocca, (Kalle) Palander. Ted Ligety had some problems with his hand at the beginning of the season, but he's also one of the top skiers. I think also Bode (Miller) if he comes down to the finish in slalom then I am sure he will be fast, too.
"I hope we can see who is the best skier before the season is over."
Raich, the reigning overall World Cup champion who competes in all disciplines but is stronger in the technical events, was happy about this week's triple-header.
"It's a good thing for all-rounders who normally don't have a set block of time dedicated to training and preparing for slaloms," Raich said.
Rocca, who began last season by winning five straight races but failed to finish the next two and crashed out at his home Olympics, is still hoping to retain his title despite just one top-three finish so far.
"You train and train and train, so you want to race," Rocca said. "When you race good it's good there are many races. But also if you don't race so good in the first race then you have the possibility of doing better the next day or the next."
But not everyone is thrilled about the slalom-fest.
"It can be very risky for athletes who aren't fit or on-form in those four days," U.S. men's head coach Phil McNichol said. "And if the conditions aren't so good in that timeframe it can have a tremendous impact on a slalom skier's season."
Kitzbuehel was supposed to stage a downhill, super-G and slalom, but sudden warm temperatures dissolved the snow that organizers had spent hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars) flying in.
The slalom course was salvaged, however, allowing the resort to keep that race as well as pick up a slalom that was scrapped in Wengen two weeks ago.
For the men, there are no races but slaloms ahead of the worlds in Are, Sweden, from Feb. 3-18.
"I'm disappointed there are no speed races in Kitzbuehel," said four-time overall champion Hermann Maier. "I'd been hoping to try some different things at these races, but we'll have training instead. It's not the same as a race, you don't have the same conditions. It's sad."


Updated : 2021-02-27 18:39 GMT+08:00