Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 Alpine Skiing World Cup title battles: overall, downhill, and super-G

The last three weeks of the Alpine Skiing World Cup are here. Both men and women have eight races remaining, two in each discipline. This is a week of speed events; men race in Kvitfjell and women in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Women's overall

Women's overall title battle seems like the more interesting overall battle. Tina Maze's huge lead in the overall standings has decreased to 44 points over Anna Fenninger. Maze didn't really dominate any discipline at any time this season. But her consistency in all four disciplines build her points lead. She seemed to run away from defending champion Fenninger who doesn't do slalom. But the downhill of St. Moritz feels like where Fenninger's World Cup campaign really started; second place after mediocre downhill performances until then. And after that she has been in top 2 in all her starts but the World Championship combined where she was fourth.

Actually, also Maze seems to be in a great form right now. Like Fenninger, she won two gold and one silver medal at the World Championships, and last weekend she was second in both races. But, it was Fenninger who finished ahead of her in those races. And in giant slalom she looks unable to match Fenninger. Of course, Maze is a capable slalom skier but even good slalom results may not be enough when Fenninger is beating her in other disciplines. Given their respective form, Fenninger may overtake Maze in points already in the speed events in Garmisch this weekend and keep the lead in the technical events in Åre before the Finals week.

Women's super-G

Fenninger didn't only take a huge leap towards the overall leader Maze in Bansko but she also took over the super-G World Cup lead from Lindsey Vonn and leads now with 32 points. Fenninger has been very consistent this season; she's finished every super-G and after the eighth place of the first race, she had three second places in a row. After winning the super-G at the World Championships, she won her first super-G on the World Cup Tour last weekend.

Vonn's season in super-G has been great too. She has two wins in the World Cup, one second, and one third place but also one retirement. Her recent form leaves some questions. Her only medal at the Worlds was bronze in the super-G won by Fenninger and last weekend in Bansko she was third in the super-G also won by Fenninger. But I feel this title can go either way. Fenninger has some lead and if she beats Vonn in Garmisch this weekend, I believe she will go to win the super-G title. But if Vonn beats Fenninger in Garmisch, then I think it will be a fifty-fifty situation before the final race. And of course, Fenninger can secure the title already in Garmisch, even though it is unlikely. Even if she won, Vonn should be out of the top 8. And if Vonn retired or were 20th at best, Fenninger should be second.

Women's downhill

Vonn has a 79-point lead over Fenninger in the downhill standings. She has a realistic chance of securing the title this weekend. If she wins, Fenninger must be second to keep the title battle open until the final race. If she is second, Fenninger must be third. If she is third, Fenninger must be fourth, etc. But even third places in the remaining two races wouldn't be enough if Fenninger won both races.

Vonn has three wins from this season whereas Fenninger has none. But just like in super-G, the recent races have gone better for Fenninger. Fenninger was second in the latest World Cup downhill in St. Moritz and in the World Championship downhill. Vonn was 23rd and 5th in those races. Vonn probably needs to do better than that to win the downhill title. If Fenninger is second in the remaining two races, Vonn needs at least a fifth and a sixth place or something like that. But Vonn is surely the favorite here; she is the best downhill skier on women's side.

Men's overall

Men's overall World Cup has been a battle between Marcel Hirscher and Kjetil Jansrud. Jansrud started his season well and was in top 2 in all speed races before Christmas, winning four of six. Since then, he has made the podium only twice, win in the Kitzbühel downhill and third place in the Saalbach super-G. That drop in form has very much dropped him out of contention for the overall World Cup title.

Hirscher is having a great giant slalom season. The only World Cup giant slalom he didn't won was in Beaver Creek where he was third, on the same slope where he suffered another defeat in giant slalom this season at the World Championships. In slalom he hasn't been quite as good. At times he has been great in slalom but he hasn't really stood out in that discipline. Some poor slalom races by his standards gave Jansrud some chances in the overall title battle but Jansrud couldn't have the results to stay in the battle.

Hirscher's lead is 188 points which is quite impossible for Jansrud to catch. If Jansrud won both races in Kvitfjell this weekend, he would overtake Hirscher in the overall points. But then Hirscher would have two technical races in the following weekend to take the lead again and build some gap. The battle for the 3rd place is almost more interesting with Alexis Pinturault, Felix Neureuther, Matthias Mayer, Dominik Paris, and Fritz Dopfer being within only 83 points. I will write more about that 3rd-place battle in next weeks.

Men's downhill

Men's downhill title seemed to be going to Jansrud after his great start to the season, wins in the first two races and second place in the third downhill. Dominik Paris seemed like his main rival but unable to match Jansrud. But Jansrud has struggled after the Christmas break; only one downhill podium, a win in Kitzbühel. In Garmisch last weekend, Jansrud even missed the top 15; a result which would award no points at the Word Cup Finals. But Paris has also been struggling lately and hasn't been able to benefit from Jansrud's mediocre results.

Austrians Hannes Reichelt and Matthias Mayer seem like the main rivals for Jansrud now. Reichelt is 84 points behind Jansrud and Mayer is 113 points behind. They both have a win and a third place from the last two downhill races, i.e. 160 points. Jansrud got only 40 points in those races. So, Jansrud needs to perform better to not lose the downhill World Cup he's lead all season long. And I believe he has the potential for that. So many times he's been good in training but mediocre in races. He needs to bring his best to races now. Also, Paris is actually one point ahead of Mayer in the standings but his recent results don't imply he might have what it takes to win the downhill title this season; he rather struggles to even make it into the top 3 of the final points.

While Jansrud's lead has decreased, he has a decent chance to secure the downhill title in his home race in Kvitfjell this weekend. He needs 17 points more than Reichelt and can lose 12 points to Paris and Mayer. A win would secure the title, no matter how others perform.

Men's super-G

Just like downhill, super-G has seemed since December like Jansrud's title to lose. And just like in downhill, Paris seemed to be his main rival. But like in downhill, both Jansrud and Paris seem to have a dip in their super-G form. And with a win two weeks ago in Saalbach, Mayer joined the battle for the super-G title.

Luckily for Jansrud, super-G seems like his best discipline right now. But third place two weeks ago in Saalbach is his only podium in super-G after the New Year. Paris has three super-G podiums from this season, including a win in Kitzbühel. But given his poor form recently, I doubt he can catch Jansrud's 73-point lead. Mayer is 102 points behind Jansrud but given his recent great form in speed disciplines, I think he has better chances than Paris. But I think Jansrud's lead should be too much for Mayer; Jansrud seems still too good to lose over 100 points in two races, unless Mayer won them both.

And like in downhill, Jansrud has a chance to secure also the super-G title in Kvitfjell this weekend. He needs 28 points more than Paris and can lose by one point to Mayer. If Jansrud won the Kvitfjell super-G, Paris would need a second place to retain a small chance for the super-G title.

Technical disciplines

I will write about the technical disciplines before next week's technical events in Kranjska Gora (men) and Åre (women). And to not miss the remaining races, add the World Cup calendar with start times to Google Calendar.

No comments:

Post a Comment