While several of skimo’s superstars raced and dominated the sprint at Champsec yesterday, many of the big endurance engines were on the sidelines spectating and presumably resting up for today’s vertical event.
The vertical course at Verbier was the same as the one in last year’s World Cup where Kilian Jornet outsprinted Matheo Jacquemond to the finish while carrying his skis (which he was subsequently penalized for). An impressive 850 meters of vertical ascent, the course began in a field below Verbier Village. Climbing up through the field and entering the village, racers skied on snow laid down on the main street through the center of town. On reaching the gondola station, racers turned on to the ski runs and up a series of moderately steep switchbacks before a long flat traverse and a second set of switchbacks. Emerging from the tree line, racers encountered a steep slope into which the volunteers carved an amazing two skier wide series of switch backs leading to the final stretch that tackled a steep 100 meters of groomed run to the finish, lined with hundreds of spectators.
Racers were forced to choose between skins that would provide good glide on the flat potions of the route or skins that would grip to the steep icy final slopes.
There was no surprise that Kilian Jornet (SPA) won today’s vertical, however, he not only won but crushed the competition with a gap of 40 seconds!
Racing behind him was a much closer fight but without any big surprises. Anton Palzer (GER), still only an espoir, does well in verticals regularly and came in second in front of a super experienced Lorenzo Holzknecht (ITA). Fourth and fifth place went Werner Martin (SWI) and Kilian’s teammate Marc Pinsach (SPA) respectively. These four men came in within 40 seconds and such small gaps continued down the field.
The highest placed North American was SkinTrack’s contributor Eric Carter (USA) at 39th:
Eric was closely followed home by Rory Kelly (USA) at 40th and Nick Elson at 41st (CAN). All three boys were within 7 seconds, demonstrating a big push towards the finish line. At 50th place, about 50 seconds behind the trio, came in Jon Brown (USA) and then the time gaps to other North Americans were bigger:
I skied a strategically poor race and hammered hard off the start and through the town. Then paid the price. Nick [Elson] came charging up and closed a lot of space but I managed to hold him off up the final steep groomer. I held in the puke until I crossed the finish line.
- 60 – Travis Brown (CAN)
- 63 – William Laird (USA)
- 68 – Peter Knight (CAN)
- 69 – Mateusz Burgunder (USA), only an espoir
There was a big surprise in the women’s race, and one that totally crushed my prediction, as Spanish cross-country racer Laura Orgue Vila managed to win over skimo’s queen Laetitia Roux (FRA). The difference on the line was 21 seconds, not too big, but proving that the vertical is the most suitable discipline to enter skimo racing either as cross training for another sport or fully transitioning into it.
Laura placed 10th in the 30 km skating at Sochi Olympics in 2014!
The gaps behind the two women were bigger, with the third placed Victoria Kreuzer (SWI) coming 2 minutes behind, and fourth Axelle Mollaret (FRA) further minute down. Beyond that the gaps got much smaller as the level of competition evens out.
The fastest North American woman, racing very well today, was Lindsay Plant (USA) with a 14th place finish! Historically, this is not the highest U.S. finish in the women’s vertical or individual race, however, with increasing competition and a larger field at these world champs, it is a result Lindsay can be very proud of.
Second NA woman and first for Canada was Melanie Bernier at 20th place, loosing about 2,5 minutes on Lindsay. Vertical is the least suitable skimo discipline for Melanie as she is an excellent skier, and so we are looking forward to Monday when she lines up for the individual race.
Another strong performance for Team USA came today from Meredith Edwards. I think, she also surprised herself with a 25th place finish, especially after the last minute (or last second) travel cancellations and arrangements. Jari Kirkland (USA) also raced well to just crack the top 30, thus, giving the U.S. squad more reason to celebrate.
Rest of the North American women gave their all as well but perhaps the unusually long vertical race surprised them a bit – Michelle Roberts (CAN) placed 31st and was followed by Martha Burley (CAN) one place behind her.
Results and beyond
» Full results from today’s vertical racing are here.
» Yesterday’s sprint race coverage is here.
Tomorrow, Sunday, will feature the Cadet and Junior vertical events in which only Oliver Bibby (CAN) will compete for North America. The rest of the team will be resting up and preparing for the exciting individual race to be held on Monday morning on the Bruson side of the valley.