Zubic Wins In Bansko, Gut-Behrami Wins Again In Val Di Fassa

It was another fight for the podium in this deep men’s giant slalom field, with Croatia’s Filip Zubcic grabbing the victory, the recently crowned GS world champion France’s Mathieu Faivre in second, four-tenths of a second back, and Austria’s Stefan Brennsteiner in third, .93 seconds off the pace, to earn his career-first podium. After finishing just out of medal range in fourth place at the Cortina World Championships in the giant slalom, Croatian Filip Zubcic exacted his revenge today, claiming his second World Cup victory of the season.

Zubcic and  Faivre were neck-in-neck after the first run, with the Cortina double-gold medalist holding a slim 0.11 advantage after the first run. Faivre’s teammate Alexis Pinturault was in third place after the first run 0.68 seconds behind, with the rest of the field after the top-five, trailing by a good distance.

But warm conditions and a strong sun beating down on the course opened things for the rest of the field as course got slower the longer the second run went on. It was only thanks to the solid leads built in the first run, that the top names remained on the podium as nearly all turned in much slower performances in the second run.

The victory came down to the wire as Faivre gained time before the last interval, giving Zubcic some stressful moments, but Faivre ultimately had to settle for second place finishing 0.40 seconds behind.

Third place went to surprise finisher Stefan Brennsteiner (AUT) who earned his first career World Cup podium, climbing up two positions in the second run. After both Pinturault and Kristoffersen crossed the finish line with slower times, the Austrian celebration started as Brennsteiner knew he was guaranteed a podium finish.

Despite his fourth-place finish today, Pinturault still holds the lead in the Overall World Cup standings, but with today’s victory, Zubcic made the hunt for the small globe in a giant slalom very interesting as Pinturault now leads the Croatian by only 22 points.

Switzerland’s Lara Gut and Corinne Suter once again impressed, going 1-2 in Saturday’s downhill, with Gut absolutely slaying and skiing with confidence, an impressive .32 seconds ahead of teammate Suter. Germany’s Kira Weidle was third, .68 off Gut’s pace. It’s been an impressive run for Gut, who swept the downhill series at Val di Fassa, and is the favorite for Sunday’s super-G, having won the last four World Cup super-Gs and the world title in the discipline.

The win makes it seven straight podiums for the Swiss star, with five of those finishes being at the top of the podium. More importantly, the two victories in Val di Fassa allowed Gut-Behrami to take a solid lead in the World Cup overall standings. She now leads Petra Vlhova by triple digits, with a 107-point led. Vlhova finished 12th today, although the Slovakian is more of a tech racer.

Giving the Swiss double reason to celebrate was the performance of Corinne Suter, who finished in second place 0.32 seconds behind her teammate. It was also the second podium of the Val di Fassa weekend for Suter, who finished in third place in yesterday’s downhill.

The results of the two Swiss women also makes the race for the downhill globe quite interesting as they are both chasing Italian Sofia Goggia for the small globe. Goggia can only watch from the sidelines with an injury, as the Swiss duo gains ground on her once-large lead in the discipline. Goggia currently has 480 points, while Suter sits at 410 and Gut-Behrami in third with 383 points.

Third place on the day went to German Kira Weidle, who continues to surprise and impress in the second half of the season. Weidle, was the silver medalist in Cortina and has taken that momentum back to the World Cup. In fact, all three of today’s podium women, also earned a downhill medal in Cortina.

Bella Wright led the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team scoring yet another career-best, skiing with confidence into her career-first FIS Ski World Cup top-15, in 14th.

Wright, who is in her first full World Cup season, has scored points in eight World Cups this season—four super-Gs and four downhills. After a disappointing 31st place finish on Friday, Wright was aiming to ski more free, aggressive, and playful on Saturday. She nailed it, earning herself her first top-15.

“I’m much happier with today’s skiing, I felt like it was more like myself,” Wright reflected following her run. “Yesterday I was very timid and kind of on the inside ski quite a bit. So, today felt way more aggressive and playful, which was my goal, and I felt a little more free, which was nice. The slope was grippier than other days, I thought it was bumpier in the same turns and darker today, I thought it was great snow, great surface, and the course was super fun. I’m really happy with the day, it’s exciting.”

Wright, who hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up ripping around the Wasatch with Snowbird Sports Education Foundation, is a strong technical skier and feels more comfortable in super-G. “I feel very good about super-G tomorrow, I consider myself more of a super-G skier,” she said, “so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully am going to ski as free as I did today.”

Unfortunately, Breezy Johnson, who was tied with Suter and ranked second in the downhill standings, leaned in after the third split and crashed through the nets. She did get up and ski down and was OK. However, after Saturday’s downhill, Suter is now within striking distance of the Crystal Globe, with one downhill remaining, 410 points to Sofia Goggia’s 480. Gut has moved ahead of Johnson in third, with 383 points. Johnson is currently ranked fourth, with 330 points.

Johnson had blazing fast with incredible consistency all season, having been top-five in all six World Cup downhills coming into Saturday, including four podiums. With one downhill remaining, Johnson will not have the chance to climb the standings ahead of Goggia, but she can still move up and look for her first World Cup victory at World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide. Having finished the 2020 season ranked 20th, Johnson has shown during the 2021 season that she belongs at the top and is among the best in the world.

Laurenne Ross also started for the Americans but crashed and DNFed. She is also thankfully OK.

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