Doug Lewis Blog

LEW’S LINE - Val d’Misery Men’s GS & SL

My Fantasy Ski Racer Picks: (12/10.15)

Val d’Isere Men’s GS

Val d’Isere Men’s SL

1.    Hirscher

2.    Fanara

3.    Ligety

4.    Luitz

5.    Kristoffersen

6.    Muffat-Jeandet

7.    Faivre

8.    Nani

9.    Leitinger

10. Eisath

1.    Hargin

2.    Myhrer

3.    Hirscher

4.    Neureuther

5.    Kristoffersen

6.    Grange

7.    Thaler

8.    Gross

9.    Chodounsky

10. Foss-Solevaag

Val D’Isere GS:
This is a unique hill for GS. Because of the steepness of the hill and rules about setting, the average distance between gates is 22 with some turns on the top being 15-17 meters. That results in a stacked up nightmare of stivots, chatters, low lines and frustrated racers. Racers like Ligety who want to carve everything will have to adapt their style and slide top of turn. Running GS on this hill hurts the body and challenges the mind. No one will look all that good on the course, and for sure, none will feel good mentally or physically after each run. However, it’s on the schedule and a win is still worth 100 points.

GS: Who’s In & WHY:
Hirscher.
Marcel makes it three in a row on a hill where his technique and athleticism matches perfectly. You need to attack and ski dirty and improvise - which he is the best at.
Fanara. Much like Hirscher, Thomas gets power from each turn, but as we saw in BC, he sometimes explodes.  Was second to Hirscher last time they raced this hill.
Ligety. Ted will hate every turn here, but will get out of town with 60 points and be glad. He can’t afford a second bad race to Hirscher to have a chance at the GS Globe. He needs to change the tactics from carving to surviving on this hill.
Luitz. Stefan has twice now made mental errors when winning or skiing to a podium and/or medal - once in Sochi and again last week in BC. This is HIS hill and will bounce back from last week’s choke.
French. I also like Muffat-Jeandet and Faivre this week. Victor coming off best ever finish with confidence, and Faivre still in the HUNT mode and skiing strong.
Leitinger. This guy is two for two in second run fastest times (Soelden and BC). A rookie on all of these courses, he will again be top ten, but in 9th.

GS: Who’s Out and WHY:
Pinturault.
Alexis has made the decision to skip the GS because of the concussion he suffered in Beaver Creek.
Neureuther. Have a feeling the steepness and tough snow conditions will not match up well with his back problems.
Myhrer. Best ever result in Beaver Creek, but this course is nothing like that one. He will rock it in the SL though.

SL: Who’s In & WHY:
Hargin.
Coming off his first win last year in Kitz and some great results this year in FIS races, he will attack this hill in his wild style and take down Hirscher.
Myhrer. Also skiing and racing well this prep period, he will use confidence from Beaver Creek to chase his Teammate and also beat Hirscher.
Hirscher. The fatigue and pressure will catch up to him in the SL. He is too good at surviving to not be on the podium, but I think a few bad turns will catch up with him and knock him down to 3rd.
Neureuther. His stable and controlled style will work well on this steep hill. Consistency counts and Felix will be able to hang tough for both runs.
Gross & Thaler. Two opposite styles for these Italians, but both will survive for the top ten. Gross has confidence from last year’s SL win and has the moves to recover all the way to the finish. Thaler is big, strong and will power down the steeps with no mistakes.
Chodounsky. Daver is coming off a best-ever GS result in BC and returns to the hill where he has career best result. He is stronger physically this year and his stable, consistent style will prove again, that he belongs in the top ten.

SL: Who’s Out & WHY:
Pinturault.
Says he is running the SL, but will still be hurting and doubting ability after the crash in BC.
Khoroshilov. He brings so much energy to his runs, that I fear a big mistake will take him off course.
Austrians. Other than Hirscher, they are struggling in Men’s SL.
Razzoli. Too steep for the Rocket.

LEW’S LINE - Are Women’s GS & SL

My Fantasy Ski Racer Picks: (12/11/15)

Are Women’s GS

Are Women’s SL

1.    Shiffrin

2.    Brignone

3.    Gut

4.    Fanchini, N

5.    Brem

6.    Worley

7.    Rebensburg

8.    Vlhova

9.    Hector

10.  Bassino

1.    Shiffrin

2.    Zuzulova

3.    Hansdotter

4.    Strachova

5.    Vlhova

6.    Gagnon

7.    Holdener

8.    Baud

9.    Stiegler

10. Gisin

Are, Sweden GS Hill.
I raced this hill a LONG time ago in a Downhill. It was the final 40 seconds and felt like a bobsled track. A bit of a natural bowl with lots of natural, fun terrain. The women are used to this hill, but every year the terrain challenges the rookies and veterans alike. This year they have injected the snow to bullet-proof consistency with an added challenge - death cookies. The reports are that the machines did not leave a super-smooth surface.

GS: Who’s In & WHY:
Shiffrin.
The crash three gates from winning in Aspen proved to motivate her in the SLs. She will come out swinging on a hill where she has a lot of confidence. Talking to her coach Dyksterhouse, they have been doing double sessions (SG & Tech) for the last three months to make sure they don’t lose the SL/GS speed while adding the SG. Mikaela still has the GS speed to win.
Brignone.
1st and 3rd in the first two races and continues to train hard and fast. Two top fives on this hill last year. She will push Shiffrin, but come up short. Great rivalry developing between these two.
Gut.
Lara trained with Shiffrin this past week and although behind Shif, she was skiing with confidence and snap. With Gut, more than others, good results breed better results.
Italians.
Behind Brignone, I am putting Fanchini and Bassino in as well. Nadia loves this hill as she can push the line and push the limits on speed. Marta had a 6th here last year.
Vlhova.
Strong and skis with abandon. Great combo for this hill - even though stronger in slalom, she will rock it in GS.

GS: Who’s Out and WHY:
Weirather.
A step back after Soelden in Aspen and Lake Louise. Hmmmm. This hill is great for her, but she is a streak skier and she is not on one.
Vonn. I think this is a great hill for her. And, the rumor is she is skiing great GS. BUT, too many strong GS women to fit Vonn in the top ten.
Swedes. Hector is in my top ten, but I do not have Hansdotter or MPH. Hansdotter will be there in the SL only. MPH struggling mentally with confidence.

SL: Who’s In & WHY:
Shiffrin.
Enough said.
Zuzu. She looked so strong and fast in Aspen and would have been behind Shiffrin both races had she not fallen.
Hansdotter. Too fast and consistent to not be on the podium, especially at home.
Vhlova. As I said with Zuzu, strength matters and this young woman is strong and goes full throttle every run. If she finishes, she’s fast.
Gagnon. Too fast and a lot of confidence coming in off of some Wins on Nor-Am level. Will crush the flatter hill in Are. I think Mielzynski is fast, but crashes.
Holdener. Thrash or crash - this time she thrashes fast and furious.
Stiegler. Resi keeps on trucking and likes this hill and terrain. Can let it go crazy. Can’t wait to see that smile.
Baud. From downtown to top ten. Bonus points.

SL: Who’s Out & WHY:
MPH.
Maria will LOVE being back in Are where she won last year, but she is struggling with confidence and the others in the field are not.
Noens. Inconsistent here in Are with two top tens, but also six times top 15 or worse.
Loeseth. Never top ten here although she has ability to pop in here.

 

Lew's Line for Fantasy Ski Racer 2016

 

 

Welcome to “Fantasy Ski Racer” and my blog that will cover all 70+ World Cup races for the 2015-16 season.

The Mission;
To pass along insider info to you. Each week I spend hours and hours talking, emailing and skyping with National and International Ski Team coaches, World Cup athletes, ski racing veterans, Olympians, techs and trainers. Plus, I’ll be sure to throw in my 2 cents worth of unsolicited and totally biased advice based on my own years racing the World Cup circuit, along with gut instinct, rumors, innuendos and ski racing passion. With all of this info in hand, you can then use it (or lose it) in order to pick your top athletes. #Whosinyourtopten

Each week I’ll throw down my top 10 picks. I challenge you to crush me and all the other fanatic fantasy leaguers out there vying to win the FSR Title.

Next Thursday I’ll post my picks and insider scoop for Soelden. In the meantime, go to Fantasyskiracer.com and create an account (or update your account) so you’ll be ready for action next week.  Below are some preliminary thoughts on Soelden to get your early season ski racing brain warmed up.

Soelden October 24/25, 2015:

World Cup #1:

For the National Programs and head coaches it’s Validation Day. Will they be heroes who made all the right decisions and spent huge amounts of money in the right places, OR will they be heels who chased weather, chose the wrong athletes, and then overworked or underworked the athletes.  It is unfortunate for them, but how their athletes do in this race could determine jobs and futures.

In reality, smart coaches know what this race is - an early pop-quiz, not the final exam. Do well and it validates your decisions. Struggle and realize you still have another month to makes some changes and keep working. But the Press and Fans don’t see it that way. They will look at it as a canary in a coal mine. They demand results, and the complaining will begin.

For the athletes, the race can’t come soon enough. They’ve been traveling, sweating, training and hammering for 6 months straight and they want to get into the gate for real to see where they stand. Right now they’re wondering, “Did I work hard enough?” “Were those fast training runs in Chile and NZ legit?” “Did I finally figure out my GS set-up?” For some, a good result will confirm all the hard work and be a stepping stone forward. For others, however, the ones who slacked off early on, time has run out and they’ll have to “run what you brung”. Time’s up. Time to perform. More than a few will get a tough wake up call.

As Bode put it a few years ago about Soelden, "I love the feeling of pressure and not knowing what's going to happen... nobody really can project so you have to wait and see. It's just a matter of preparing and then execution."

Soelden - The Mountain:           

  •          It is a glacier – no matter how much natural or manmade snow, no matter the injection job, it’s still a giant mound of ICE. It’s different than any other surface they’ll be on throughout the year.
  •           At it’s best, it’s hard and slick and unforgiving. At it’s worst, it feels like broken concrete under your skis which are chattering so bad your spine feels like it will implode.
  •          It tires you out faster than other conditions, which is troublesome as many racers are not in race shape yet.
  •          It favors the balanced and controlled skier who can handle the rough ride. It favors the physically stronger skier as legs are toast with jelly by the bottom of the pitch and lungs bleeding. It favors the veteran, as no one in the last 17 years has won Soelden sooner than on their third try.

Soelden - The Course:

  •          This course is the toughest GS hill for the women, and maybe third toughest for the men behind Alta Badia and Adelboden.
  •          It lulls you into a false sense of security as the top is flat. Then there is the first roll onto to a relatively steep pitch, but you can still arc clean and feel like a hero. Next, you get a sucker punch to the gut when it rolls over to a nasty, steep and long pitch that rarely sees any kind of light, especially in the 2nd run.
  •          If you make it through the 12 nasty turns of the steep, it’s critical to carry as much speed onto the final flat as possible, because it’s pancake flat. One mistake on the bottom flat kills your speed and you better bring out the V2 Nordic technique to get to the finish.

Soelden - To Win:

  •          Victory comes on the top and bottom flats. That is where you race and push and work it. On the steeps, the goal is to survive and accomplish one thing… stay on a high enough line to carry speed onto the long bottom flats. This is exactly how victory came to Bode, Ligety, and Shiffrin.
  •          Mentally, poise and confidence is a must. That is why it’s the veterans who do well here. There are so many factors trying to blow you up physically and mentally, that you need a calmness and deep confidence to handle it.

         The elements below combine to put doubt and stress in the minds of the racers at the start.

  • Nerves of first race
  • Energy of a crazy Austrian crowd
  • Your unproven equipment setup
  • The steepness of the pitch
  • The pancake flatness of the bottom
  • Nasty, changing snow conditions
  • Trying to ride that fine line between skiing with aggression and skiing to finish.

Good luck racers! And good luck to my fellow Fantasy Ski Racer Competitors!

 

Lew's Line- Soelden Women's GS

My Fantasy Ski Racer Picks: (10/22/15)*

  1. Shiffrin
  2. Brignone
  3. Brem
  4. Rebensburg
  5. Worley
  6. Gut
  7. N. Fanchini
  8. Bassino
  9. Hector
  10. Marsaglia

Who’s IN and WHY:

Shiffrin. Mikaela has a goal this year to win the GS Globe and has worked specifically this off-season to correct her weaknesses in the discipline. She and her team recognized two areas to improve: her transition and her ability to handle terrain. She has made great strides in both areas. She told me, “I had several GS focuses. But all geared towards linking my turns together smoothly and with more power. I worked on staying more forward and being in a more aggressive position at the gate and taking a more aggressive line.”

Brignone. Although the Italian Women did not get great weather or training this off-season they did the best with what they had. Brignone is fired up to continue what she started last year with four top 5s. Her focus is a World Cup win this year. She states, "In preparation, I tried to get used to more speed, so I insisted so much on the supergiant (SG).”

Brem. With Fenninger out and Zettel retired, Brem is now the leader of the Austrians in GS. If she continues her upward trajectory without succumbing to the pressure of being number 1, she will continue to land on the podium.

Rebensburg. Victoria unfortunately is on a Team of one, but often trains with other teams. However, she has another year figuring out the Stocklis and her explosion into speed only helps her GS. She says of this year, "Especially during the overseas training course in Chile I was able to very effectively train. I feel fit, I'm healthy and ready for the opener in Soelden. With the race on Rettenbachferner I associate a lot of positive memories. The slope suits me and I'm eager to see where I stand in an international comparison. As always, it is important to find the right setup for the glacier race. The first year after my change of material on Stöckli we were able to gather a lot of valuable experience, which is why I am confident that I stand with the optimal material at the start."

Italian Women. They came on strong last year skiing with no reservations or holding back at all. That is why I have Fanchini, Bassino and Marsaglie also in my top ten. "Forza Italia!"

Gut. After going backwards last year, I think Lara is FIRED UP. We know she has the technique and speed, she just needs to get her head in the right place. A year of struggling will do that for you. And Gut has proven she can win here. She also has added Chris Krause as Ski technician and Patrice Morisod as Coach - two of the best. She will be close with her ranking, but she is my FSR BONUS pick (if she is out of top 21).

Who’s OUT and WHY:

Fenninger. She blew out her knee on Wednesday training up on the glacier. Total bummer for her, the Austrian Team, and for the entire FIS World Cup.

Injured racers:
Vonn  (US),
Mancuso (US),
Swenn-Larson (Swe),
Anemone Marmottan (Fra),

GS Retirees.
Dominique Gisin,
Jessica Lindell-Vikarby,
Katrin Zettel,

Maze. Tina is taking a year off so don’t put her in your top ten until next season.

Mowinckel and Loeseth. If snow is on the softer side they can pop in there, but they may need another month to get up to speed.

Canadians. Heard through the grapevine that they may need some more training before they are completely ready. I love the way Prefountaine skis, but at Soelden she struggles. I am looking for this Team to come into form in December.

MPH. Hmmmmm. Word on the street is that Maria is struggling mentally to get fired up.

*Like everyone else, I reserve the right to change my picks up until Race Time.
Universal Sports Network is covering Soelden’s second run LIVE at 4:30am MST from our studios in Denver. Steve Porino is Play-by-Play and I will be the Analyst.

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