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Shiffrin timeout: Men’s World Cup a wild ride

Happy Wengen Week

Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen leads a wild and unsettled World Cup race.
Marco Tacca | AP

Mikaela, Mikaela, Mikaela.

Yes, the Vail Daily often sounds a lot like Jan Brady.

Shiffrin wins a race.

Shiffrin does not win a race.

Shiffrin has a ham sandwich for lunch.

Taking nothing away from Mikaela Shiffrin, whose greatness does surpass mortal understanding, and we’re not saying that sarcastically, we’re taking a break for a day.

That’s because the men’s World Cup is a donnybrook with all four of the traditional disciplines up for grabs as well as the overall as the gents pull into Wengen, Switzerland, for the storied Lauberhorn downhill, a combined and a slalom.

Life without Hirscher

In the post-Marcel Hirscher-world  — the Austrian retired last summer having won eight straight overall titles  — the expected names have risen to the top.

Just like the women, the men’s World Cup has more tech events than speed, so Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen (611 points) leads France’s Alexis Pinturault (533).

But unlike the ladies, there isn’t a  Shiffrin-Petra Vlhova-like death grip on tech events, slalom in particular. (Shiffrin and Vlhova have won every World Cup slalom dating back to January 2017.)

In five slaloms this season, the gents have had four different winners, France’s Clement Noel (twice), Kristoffersen, Pinturault and Switzerland’s Daniel Yule.

Kristoffersen leads the slalom chase, but all four of the above are within 116 points of each other.

There’ve also been four different winners in GS this year, Pinturault, Tommy Ford in Beaver Creek, Kristoffersen and Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec. The Slovenian leads GS with 270, followed by Kristoffersen (253) and Pinturault (172).

Simplistically put, without Hirscher, there is no dominant force in men’s skiing, and it’s anyone’s game.

Speedsters in the hunt

If the men are going to have their first speedster to win the World Cup since Switzerland’s Carlo Janka in 2010, this could be the year.

Italy’s Dominik Paris won back-to-back downhills on home snow in Bormio in December. That vaulted him not only ahead of Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr in the discipline (304-300), but Paris is sitting fourth in the overall chase.

At 454 points and nearly 200 behind Kristoffersen, it’s a longshot, yet this is the time of year to make a move. It’s Wengen, followed by Kitzbuehel, Austria, and Garmisch, Germany, the next three weekends.

And who’s going to win super-G? You might as well pick names out of a hat. Kriechmayr (196) and teammate Matthias Mayer (184) lead the way, followed by Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (156), Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel (155), Paris (145) and Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt (143).

Kilde?

We called him a darkhorse back in October at the start of the season and Kilde is definitely filling that role. In third place in the overall (519 points, just 92 behind Kristoffersen), Kilde is competing in everything but the slalom.

He’s the least renowned of the Fighting Vikings with Kristoffersen, Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal (we miss him), but Kilde is easily on pace to post a career high in points —  his best is 756 in 2015-16. He is getting points from a lot of places and just might be able to overtake the tech specialists.


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