If the races actually take place at the weekend, Marko Pfeifer will begin his second year as head coach at the ÖSV. “I would like us to win more than four or five races,” he repeated his motto.
On Thursday, training on the 3.8 kilometer long Gran Becca had to be canceled due to heavy snowfall, and further rainfall and wind are also forecast for the following days. However, we are still sticking to the program and hoping for suitable weather windows. A further cancellation of both races on Saturday and Sunday (each at 11.30 a.m./live on ORF 1) would be another PR failure for the organizers and especially for the FIS leadership, which absolutely wants to realize the cross-border speed opening.
Pfeifer would not basically say “that it is completely pointless” to drive here, he assured on Thursday. “But if you go at that point, you certainly have to reckon with the fact that it’s a fifty-fifty chance. You can have a good week once. But whether you can do two races and two training sessions…” showed Carinthians are skeptical. Moving the races to spring was also discussed. “But apparently that’s not possible because of the quarters and certain other circumstances.”
If you take the benchmarks from previous years, Vincent Kriechmayr is one of the contenders for victory on his team. The 49-year-old wants to see an improvement in the other athletes over the course of the season. Daniel Hemetsberger’s performance curve is steadily increasing, and he is also hoping for further development from Daniel Danklmaier, who is fully fit again. Marco Schwarz is “the big question mark” in the speed area. He will certainly still need it. But depending on the character of the route or which descent we will take, I always see him keen. However, Schwarz and Strolz left Zermatt early to take advantage of the top conditions in Gurgl for slalom training.
Pfeifer expects the “so-called younger generation” around Felix Hacker, Stefan Rieser and Manuel Traninger “to get us fixed places in the European Cup” and to make it into the top 30 at any World Cup starts. “You have to leave the church in the village. It won’t be the case that they will squeeze everything in without the scope,” he emphasized. He therefore sent the trio to Nakiska in Canada, where there are perfect training conditions before the start of the European Cup. It also means getting training kilometers for Raphael Haaser, Julian Schütter, Andreas Ploier and Lukas Feurstein, who took off for Beaver Creek on Friday.
For Kriechmayr and Co., who are staying in Europe for the time being, Zermatt/Cervinia is also about a few amenities that underline the special status of the race. The Swiss-Italian border is marked on the route by an archway where customs officers from both countries are posted. There’s no shortage of prize money either: the winner receives 60,000 Swiss francs (62,506 euros) and a voucher for climbing the Matterhorn. If an athlete were to win both races, he would receive an additional bonus of 50,000 francs on top of the 120,000. Only in Kitzbühel, where you receive 100,000 euros for victory, can the alpine stars earn even more prize money.
In the event of a total cancellation, the OK team’s efforts would have been in vain and even more grist would flow to the critics’ mill. Many people see the event as just a gigantic marketing gimmick at the expense of the glaciers. “In times of climate crisis, it is absurd to use heavy equipment to accelerate the collapse of the last glaciers. The FIS must finally stop this destruction and anchor glacier protection in the association,” Greenpeace expert Ursula Bittner reiterates the environmental organization’s position after both Proceedings have been opened on the border regarding the preparatory work.
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