Pinturault dominates combined _ before it goes extinct
By ANDREW DAMPF
Dec. 29, 2017
BORMIO, Italy (AP) — Alexis Pinturault realizes that the Alpine combined event is moving toward extinction.
Maybe that's why he's dominating the races that remain.
The Frenchman secured another combined win when first-run leader Dominik Paris straddled a gate toward the end of his slalom run on Friday.
For his seventh World Cup victory in the discipline, Pinturault won with a 0.42-second advantage ahead of Peter Fill of Italy.
Kjetil Jansrud of Norway finished third, 0.45 back.
Combined events — which determine the winner by combining the times from one downhill run and one slalom leg — are on the provisional calendar only for the next two seasons. After that, the International Ski Federation has intimated that it plans to install more TV-friendly parallel events instead.
"I can't say I will regret it but I also can't say I'm happy about it," Pinturault said. "I like combined. I like the way we are racing against the downhillers or the downhillers are racing against the tech guys. These are the only races where this is happening.
"Of course if people don't really like it or are not interested maybe it doesn't make sense to continue or maybe it makes sense to change it for the future," he added. "It's life. It's evolution."
This season already, both the men's and women's circuits have had giant slalom and slalom parallel events in Alta Badia and Courchevel, France, respectively. Also, city events on miniature slalom courses are planned for Oslo on New Year's Day and Stockholm on Jan. 30.
"I like city events but in this kind of event you never know what will happen," Pinturault said. "They're really short. One mistake and you're out. It's something really tricky."
In the combined, the top all-around racer often wins.
Pinturault stood 19th after the downhill run — 1.65 seconds behind Paris — but had the fastest slalom leg to post his 21st career win across all disciplines. He has won four of the last five, and six of the last nine World Cup combined races.
"He's a way better downhiller than people expect him to be," Jansrud said. "And then being an extremely good slalom skier makes him a dangerous combination. So he's the man to beat."
Paris was positioned to duplicate his victory in the downhill a day earlier when he held an advantage of 0.46 ahead of Pinturault at the last checkpoint of the slalom leg, but the Italian lost control about 10 gates from the finish.
Jansrud is also a supporter of the combined, citing the event's long history. But he's aware that that a one-hour parallel race is more attractive to TV viewers and easier to understand than a complicated combined event that can take all day.
"I think it would be optimal to do a bit of both but we only have so much time," Jansrud said.
This was the first of two World Cup combined races this season, with the next in Wengen, Switzerland, in January. A combined will also be contested at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, where a team event will make its debut in the parallel format.
The combined is often considered the toughest test in skiing, since it requires vastly different skills between the high-speed downhill and the sharp and rapid turns of slalom. This race was a case in point, since the downhill was physically demanding on the bumpy Stelvio course and then the slalom was held under the lights on a layout that didn't leave much room for specialists to excel.
After his downhill run, Paris bent over in exhaustion and rubbed his thighs to relieve his aching muscles.
"It was one of the hardest downhills we ever had in combined," Pinturault said. "Also, the slalom had a really long flat and was really straight, so it was really hard to make a huge difference. ... I won today also because of my downhill performance."
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