If the snowfall that has resulted in several cancellations of races since the start of the Worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo does not decide otherwise, Alexis Pinturault will start this Wednesday, February 10 on the super-G track for the first part of the combined. Before facing in stride the poles of the slalom event. The Savoyard is in any case the best placed to succeed itself, Monday February 15.
Sacred world champion he is two years old, in Are (Sweden) in this discipline less and less practiced (no World Cup event has been organized this year), he dominates the circuit thanks to his versatility.
A rare quality in the white circus where hyper specialization is required. His fellow slalomers from the French Team flee the giant’s long curves and the descenders do not risk themselves between the poles. But he happily jumps from one discipline to another, performing in slalom, in giant (his specialty), but also in super-G.
Two trainers at his service in Austria
A triple cap which places him this year in pole position to become the third Frenchman to win the general classification of the World Cup, thus succeeding two other famous versatile, Luc Alphand and Jean-Claude Killy. In 2014, the latter had dubbed their potential heir in a famous video broadcast by the site of the specialized magazine “Ski chrono”.
We saw the two former patters on the shoulder of the 23-year-old kid at the time and promise him the two Grails of alpine skiing: this famous big crystal globe awarded to the winner of the World Cup and an Olympic champion title. . Two cuts that still slip through his hands, seven years later.
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No doubt not for a very long time, given its recent results, the fruit of talent but also of a particular organization. After failed world championships in 2017, it was decided that the best French skier of the last twenty years would be allowed to train alone with a dedicated team.
A favor not understood at the time, but which the national technical director Fabien Saguez still welcomes. “ It was a good decision and it still is, his results are up to par. He takes part in a lot more races than the others, his status entails a lot more solicitations. He needed that and no Team skier complained about it. “
A van and a helicopter
Alexis Pinturault therefore took charge of the ski kingdom, Austria. White gold represents 15% of gross domestic product there and resort managers pamper the champions, not hesitating to privatize tracks permanently, including in speed disciplines that require a lot of space. Especially, in his case, since the Salzburg-based company Red Bull chose to sponsor him.
Since his installation in Altenmark Im Pongau, home of two of the greatest Austrian champions, Hermann Maier and Marcel Hirscher, he no longer wastes time in these exhausting trips from one valley to another depending on the snow conditions. And in the event of a logistical glitch, the Red Bull helicopter is never far away, not to mention the van that follows it everywhere to welcome its rest between two slalom heats.
To exceptional champion, exceptional treatments and invoices. The Federation has delegated two full-time coaches to its service and covers part of its costs. “It is certain that the operation of Alexis Pinturault is at first sight more expensive than that of another runner, continues Fabien Saguez, but it finances it up to two-thirds, thanks to its racing bonuses and sponsorship contracts. All in all, it does not cost the federation more than a regular runner, the cost of which is estimated at around 100,000 € per year. “
Especially since the Savoyard brings more than victories to the French medal counter. Since the decline of Tessa Worley, who still remains after a recent World Cup victory, he is the only one to keep the French ski racing at the top of the white basket. And his name has often come up during discussions concerning the attribution of the next Worlds in 2023, which will finally be organized in Courchevel, where he grew up.
One of the most beautiful French awards
Olympic bronze medalist in giant in Sochi (2014), bronze and silver in giant and combined in PyeongChang (2018), twice adorned gold at the Worlds (team event and combined in 2017 and 2019), Alexis Pinturault has, at almost 30 years, an impressive track record in major championships. But it is especially on the circuit of the World Cup that he imposed his paw. He climbed the top step 33 times, more often than any other Frenchman before him. Only seven men did better, including the inaccessible Ingemar Stenmark and Marcel Hirscher (86 and 67 wins).