Can Shiffrin get past Vlhova at Flachau World Cup? |

Can Shiffrin get past Vlhova at Flachau World Cup?

Racing starts at 10 a.m. on Tuesday

Mikaela Shiffrin starts a stretch of four races in two weeks with Tuesday’s night slalom World Cup in Flachau, Austria. (AP FIle Photo/Marco Trovati)

Night skiing isn’t a phenomena on the World Cup anymore. Lots of pistes now have lights for official night events or said illumination is helpful on stops on tour located further north where the days are just short during the winter.

But this is the Flachau slalom, one of the originals to night racing, in the heart of the most ski-mad nation in the world, Austria. With apologies to “Animal Farm,” some ski races are just more equal than others.

Yes, the annual Florida-Georgia college football game in Jacksonville, Florida, has been called, “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” In normal non-COVID-19 times, Flachau would give Gators and Bulldogs fans a run for their money.

It hurts the brain to think how many shots of schnapps are consumed during events like these as well as the men’s stops in Wengen, Switzerland, this week, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, the next. Even as a recovering alcoholic of 14 years, your sports editor has a swing of Flachau, Wengen and Kitzbuehel on his bucket list because these aren’t just sporting events, but happenings.

For Mikaela Shiffrin, Flachau starts a critical two weeks. It’s the first of four tech races, the last ones before the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina, Italy, in 14 days. It’s Flachau (slalom) on Tuesday, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday and Sunday (giant slalom and slalom), followed by Kronplatz, Italy, (GS) on Jan. 26.

It’s not like Shiffrin has been struggling. In her six World Cup starts this season, she’s finished second, fifth, fourth, first, third and fourth, Yet at the same time, it doesn’t seem she’s quite completely operating at full strength, and, of course, we all know why and relate.

While the life circumstances won’t change for Shiffrin, this is the run up to Cortina, where, while we don’t know if she will defend her super-G title, Shiffrin is definitely shooting for the top step in GS and slalom.

Flachau past and present

There will be likely up to 60 racers competing Tuesday, but this is pretty much a two-person race — Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Shiffrin. Now retired, Sweden’s Friday Hansdotter won the Flachau slalom on Jan.10, 2017.

We only bring that up because Shiffrin and Vlhova combined to win the next 28 World Cup slaloms until Dec. 29, 2020, when Michelle Gisin broke up the streak in Semmering, Austria. For the record, Shiffrin was third and Vlhova fourth. Vlhova restarted the streak by winning the Zagreb, Croatia, slalom on Jan. 3.

Shiffrin owns wins in Flachau in 2013, 2014 and 2018. Hansdotter won in 2015 and 2017 — there was no race in 2016 — and Vlhova has titles from 2019 and 2020.

And since this is a night race, American ski race fans don’t have to get up in the middle of the night. The first run is at 10 a.m. and the second at 12:45 p.m. mountain time and will be streamed on Peacock.

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