LES CONTAMINES, FRA, 10 JAN 2013 – After a much-needed holiday break, the Audi FIS ski cross World Cup returns to action with qualifications on Friday, January 11th at Les Contamines, France. This is the 11th year in a row that World Cup ski cross racing has been held on the technical Les Contamines slope, making it easily the longest-running contest on the circuit.
Featuring big jumps, sweeping back-and-forth banked sections, and one of the steepest 'negative turns' on the tour, the French course promises to be one of the most challenging the athletes face all year.
So far, just over a quarter of the way through the 2012-13 season – with roughly a year left in the qualifying cycle for the 2014 Sochi Olympics – the big story has been the the dominance of the Swiss team on both the men's and ladies' side. The squad in red has won six of a possible eight races, with Alex Fiva and Armin Niederer taking one and two races respectively for the men, and comeback queen Fanny Smith winning the first three races of the season in women's competition. And in the two races that a Swiss skier didn't win, they were still able to put a racer on the podium.
It's been an impressive run but, after a lengthy holiday break that provided other teams with plenty of time to recuperate and recalibrate, it seems likely that some of the other squads and skiers will begin to close the gap.
Expect to see a strong comeback from Filip Flisar after battling bronchitis for the final two races of 2012. Look for Jean-Frederic Chapuis to come out strong on home turf, and expect the same for Ophelie David as she looks for redemption following her disqualification from the last SX event in Innichen/San Candido. Germany's Daniel Bohnacker has looked strong and closed out 2012 with a runner-up finish in Italy. Andy Matt appears to be returning to the powerhouse form we have only seen in flashes since 2010-11. And never forget the usually-dominant Canadians, who haven't yet lived up to their own high standards and are looking to start 2013 with a statement performance.
And, of course, expect the unexpected. This is ski cross, after all.