By dominating the discipline almost uncompromisingly since 2013, it is difficult for Alexis Pinturault not to place himself as a super favorite in the combined this Monday at Cortina D’Ampezzo (11:15 am, 3:20 pm). He is also the reigning world champion in this specialty, which is the fastest skier over the cumulative times of one speed run and another in slalom. A praise of the versatility that goes so well to Savoyard, already bronze medalist Thursday in Super-G.
The terrible weather of threatening clouds, imposing snowflakes and sometimes torrential rains that raged above Cortina d’Ampezzo until the middle of the week will not only have spoiled the postcard. Let’s say that the organizers will even have torn their hair and sideburns before the return of a frank sun on Thursday morning, synonymous with the kick-off (three days late) of the competition. In the meantime, from postponements to cancellations and rescheduling, these 2021 Worlds have shown it again: skiing, an outdoor sport par excellence, requires a key word, adaptation.
In this context, Alexis Pinturault also had to adapt for his entry into the competition. Arrived last Sunday in the Pearl of the Dolomites, he was to start the Super-G on Tuesday, finally postponed until Thursday. Then that of the combined Wednesday, in turn postponed to this Monday. A somewhat sluggish start for a first start finally taken Thursday in Super-G, with the key, in a magical setting and under the benevolent eye of a few hundred VIP ampezzini copiously hydrated with Prosecco, an unexpected bronze medal in a discipline that he appreciates, although it is not his strongest.
Another unknown lead
But like many others, Pintu will still have to play chameleons and adapt for the combined this Monday. Because if he thought he had made a proper spotting of this famous Vertigine slope by skiing it for the first time in competition on Thursday, it is not. While the combined Super-G also had to stick to it, the organizers finally did an about-face and decided “for logistical reasons” according to an official of the French delegation, to trace it on the women’s speed track, the Olimpia Delle Tofane, which the boys do not know.
“In technical disciplines, knowledge of the track is not very important, but in speed it is predominant”, nevertheless confides Pinturault. Confirmation during a descent to Saalbach in 2015, on a track then neglected for more than 10 years by the World Cup, the Austrians, connoisseurs of the place had monopolized the first three places. They were even five in the Top 10. Even if for once in Cortina, Monday morning all will be on an equal footing in terms of knowledge of the track.
50% victory and 75% podiums in combined in the World Cup
Be reassured despite everything for the world number 1, the combined remains the discipline in which he is the most consistent at a very high level. Winner of four of the last five globes of the specialty, Pinturault had left only the crumbs to his opponents in 2019 during the Worlds of Are, in Sweden, winning gold with the serenity of the cat in the middle of a nap on the sofa. And in the World Cup, his statistics are eloquent: 21 starts since the start of his career in this discipline for 15 podiums including 10 victories.
The explanation? A unique versatility today in alpine skiing. Apart from downhill, Alexis Pinturault has been able to win in all the disciplines offered in the World Cup since the start of his career. From the more technical like the slalom, to the more “daredevils” like the Super-G. No wonder then that it is the most efficient when it comes to adding the two extremes.
“With Nils Alègre, he is currently the best French in Super-G, analyzes Johan Clarey, dean of the France team. He is gifted in speed, as in everything else. He does not do much, he does not have a descender template, but he is not afraid, he knows how to extend the downforce, he is really very strong. Most importantly, he has great instinct and real self-confidence. And when you have confidence in Super-G, that makes all the difference. ” These qualities should therefore allow Pinturault to play placed from the combined speed round on Monday.
Resist the pressure of the second round
To then proceed better on the technical event, of which he is one of the greatest specialists? Yes, according to Sébastien Amiez of the Dream Team RMC SPORT. “First of all because he has become very strong in slalom again this season thanks to ever more precise adjustments to his equipment, he explains. But also because pure technicians have a psychological advantage over descenders in combined. They know how to manage two heats in the same day (there are always two in slalom and giant slalom), unlike the speed men who, in downhill or super-G, only have one. alone and are not broken in what the pressure of a second round can constitute. Quickly, when you have finished your round, you will find your prize if you win and you come home. In technique, you win the first is very good, but then you have to be patient, warm up again, spend time outside, take the start of a second round, resist the return of your opponents, in short the days are long, and the fairly intense emotional charge. ”
So for Alexis Pinturault an advantage over speed specialists like Matthias Mayer or Kjetil Jansrud, but neither is it an absolute guarantee of wearing gold. Especially since there is real uncertainty before the race on the level of each other in this discipline. With the removal of combined from the World Cup calendar this winter, for reasons related to the Covid crisis, skiers have not competed in them for almost a year. Meanwhile, Alexis Pinturault has done very little speed in competition. Four super G-only, with a world bronze medal, as well as a seventh and two twelfth places in the World Cup.