Manuel Feller ended the 2020/2021 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on a high note, conquering the Lenzerheide slope in a thrilling battle for the win.
By Daphne Seberich
Manuel Feller closed the 2020-21 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season in top form by winning the last Slalom race of the season at the finals in Lenzerheide.
Feller, who was only in sixth place after the first run, had a nail-biting experience in the leader’s chair as the last five men descended the slope. In the end, he staved off two Frenchmen to hang on for the victory, topping Clément Noël by a slim 0.08 seconds and Overall World Cup winner Alexis Pinturault by 0.11 seconds in a very tight race.
The small slalom globe was already awarded heading into the final race as Feller’s teammate Marco Schwarz wrapped up the honors in Kranjska Gora. Schwarz had a successful season, conquering the Small Slalom Crystal Globe and finishing in third place in the Overall World Cup standings.
Wunderteam athlete Schwarz set the bar for the next competitors with a time of 00:52.79. The winner of the Kranjska Gora Slalom Clément Noël started on the back foot, setting red intermediates throughout his run. On the mellowest part of the slope, he managed to catch up some hundredths against the Wunderteam athlete, but it wasn’t enough to earn the leadership of the race.
Alta Badia Slalom winner Ramon Zenhäusern attempted to dethrone Marco Schwarz, but his delay at the finish line only secured him the lowest step of the podium. Sebastian Foss-Solevaag had a disastrous end to his season, making a major mistake on the steepest part of the slope and then straddling a gate.
Zagreb winner Linus Straßer, who was not in his prime performance, still managed to stay close to the top positions, placing in fourth. Henrik Kristoffersen’s performance was sub-par, securing the last place with 1.72 seconds of delay. Manuel Feller only managed to place in fifth.
Swiss youngster Loïc Meillard was racing to secure third place in the Overall standings against the provisional leader of the race, but his performance wasn’t enough to attack the Austrian’s position.
Photo credits: SciareMag, The Indian Paper, RSI, Rheinische Anzeigeblätter, La Razón & LeNouvelliste.ch
Cortina 2021 silver medalist Adrian Pertl had an impressive performance, dethroning Ramon Zenhäusern from the provisional podium position. Only one-hundredth of a second separated the two athletes.
Overall Crystal Globe winner Alexis Pinturault didn’t take too many risks during his attempt at the leadership of the race. 1.09 seconds of delay put him in eighth place.
Giant Slalom specialist Filip Zubcic, who I had the pleasure to interview in Alta Badia (click here for the video interview), just managed to cross the finish line in the Top-10.
Alex Vinatzer, the Val Gardena rising star, had a great start to his run but progressively lost out on a major result. 1 second of delay put him in front of Pinturault in eighth place. His teammate Manfred Mölgg was on a roll in the most technical part of the course. A too-pronounced lean made him crash and miss out on potential points.
Kicking off the second run, the legendary French skier Jean-Baptiste Grange said goodbye to racing with a farewell performance that moved everyone. The sport lost one of the biggest Slalom champions. In his 197 World Cup starts, Grange won one Slalom title and 9 World Cup wins. He also accomplished to earn 2 World Championships gold medals in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2011 and Vail/Beaver Creek 2015.
Stefan Hadalin was the first one to actually compete. A time of 1:49.75 set the bar for the athletes still at the starting gate. With over 71 hundredths of advantage, Christian Hirschbühel dethroned the Slovenian provisional leader but the following competitor Luca Ärni was on fire and served the Wunderteam athlete over six-tenths of advantage.
Henrik Kristoffersen and Filip Zubic, who had a huge advantage against provisional leader Ärni, couldn’t do much to contrast his remarkable performance, finishing respectively fourth and fifth in the standings.
Frenchman Pinturault gave it all in his performance. In his attempt, he drastically increased his advantage over Ärni intermediate by intermediate, finishing his run being over a second faster than the provisional leader. Alex Vinatzer managed to be just two tenths behind Pinturault, which was good enough to beat Loïc Meilliard for second place by one-hundredth.
Manuel Feller was on a rocket ship. 11-hundredths of advantage brought him to the top of the standings. Zenhäusern, who was chasing the fourth consecutive podium position, incredibly made a mistake and straddled a gate. Third, after the first run, Adrian Pertl crashed as well, missing out on a podium position. Clément Noël came the closest to beating Feller, with only eight-hundredths separating the two athletes.
With a 94 hundredths advantage, Schwarz had the task to beat his teammate Feller. A crucial mistake on the mellow part of the slope ended the Austrian champion’s winning chances, who completed his second run attempt in sixth place.
With all the globes decided heading into the final race of the season, the biggest storyline of the day was the duel between the Swiss and Austrian men for the Team Trophy, given to the men’s team with the most World Cup points throughout the entire season. It was a tight race, but in the end, Feller’s victory wasn’t enough to make up the difference as the Swiss earned the men’s trophy in addition to the women’s Team Trophy and Overall Team Trophy.
Also decided in the race was the Longines Rising Star trophy, which went to Alex Vinatzer thanks to his fourth-place finish.
This race concluded a highly contended 2020/2021 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup men’s season. What can we expect in the future from these brilliant athletes? Fans can’t wait to see them back on the slopes in the fall!