Naeba-san (Japan) (AFP)
Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, surprise leader in the general classification of the Alpine Skiing World Cup, traveled to Japan for a weekend of technical tests (giant and slalom) in Naeba, when he is rather specialist of speed.
Kilde should align himself on Saturday with the giant, where he is performing this season (three times in the first six) and put pressure on his two opponents for the big crystal globe: his compatriot Henrik Kristoffersen, 2nd at 79 points, and the Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, 3rd at 100 points (a victory brings precisely 100 points).
"Kristo" and "Pintu", two specialists in technical tests, must absolutely do much better than Kilde this weekend, after missing each other in the last technical tests in Chamonix at the beginning of February (slalom run off for both, behind Kilde on the parallel giant).
After the Naeba races (center of the island of Honshu, the main one in Japan), there will remain eleven races to be contested, perfectly divided between the specialties (five techniques, five speed and one combined).
The big crystal globe, Grail of alpine skiing, is particularly disputed this season after the undivided reign of the Austrian Marcel Hirscher (eight consecutive victories), who retired last summer.
Alexis Pinturault (four wins this season) and Henrik Kristoffersen (three victories), big favorites in his succession, are there but none managed to take over because of several errors that have benefited Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, less victorious (a success at Saalbach last week) but more regular.
Niigata will also be the theater of the first giant in the World Cup of French Clément Noël, installed among the best slalomers on the circuit for two years (6 victories, 2nd provisional in the classification of the specialty this year).
"I want to make more and more giant, take more starts next year, and gain experience, he explained in a press briefing. The best thing would be to be able to score points on this race , that would be a huge satisfaction. Even if I am not in terms of level, I think rather in the long term. "
Naeba Gentlemen's World Cup program:
Saturday: giant, 1st round at 02:00, 2nd round at 05:00
Sunday: slalom, 1st round at 02:00, 2nd round at 05:00
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