Just over a week ago I predicted that wax and the tuck would swing the result of the Inferno downhill on Sunday, 22 January, on the Allmendhubel to Lauterbrunnen “glide and hairpin” course.
It turned out I was partly right – but an even greater factor was the weather, which improved as the day went on.
Read what happened in this article I have written on the excellent ski news website PlanetSKI – it includes more on the winner and on my own snow-and-rain-spattered run. Read the extensive and detailed results here.
It’s all in there really, but for the real keenites I am adding a little more detail.
At the press conference on the eve of the race, one of the hot favourites, Oliver Zurbruegg, a 23-year-old cabinet maker from Lauterbrunnen, said: “Tomorrow you’ll need the right skis and wax, and the climb will be decisive.” He added: “If the sun comes out the course could get quicker.”
Ueli Staeger, president of the organising committee, said (my rough translation): “The weather is forecast to improve during the day and it certainly won’t be over until the last racers have come down.”
They were spot on, and the improving conditions – as well as the winner’s hours spent tuning his frame to the tuck position in his living-room (see my PlanetSKI article) – led to the extraordinary leaderboard, in which none of the top ten left the start gate before midday.
During my run, it was snowing at the top and raining at the bottom.
With somebody leaving the start gate every 10 seconds, it wasn’t exactly knee-high powder on course – unlike at Kitzbuehel’s Hahnenkamm on the same day, where one unlucky racer had to ski on a layer of fresh after a five-minute “TV ad break”, as explained by Graham Bell on Ski Sunday.
But the snowfall doubtless put the brake on early starters – not that anyone set off in strict order after the delayed-by-an-hour start. As the day went on, it eased off and by 3.45pm, when the last racers hurtled, cruised or struggled down, it was bright.
Organisers did brilliantly to finish almost on time – especially as they had to stop the race now and then for heli-pick-ups of racers who had crashed out. (Looking at the numbers on the start list – 1,850 – and the tally of finishers – around 1,554 – I suspect a few people didn’t show on account of the weather or the apparently limited course.)
In the end, it was fantastic to see a “rogue” winner in 30-year-old Samuel Imhof (start number 1,602), a geography and sports teacher who grew up in the Gotthard district, not far from Andermatt, and did regional racing as a teenager. Now he lives in Basel and skis for fun at low-key places like Adelboden and Elsigenalp.
The local hotshots will have their day again, but the Inferno 2012 belonged to the bold late starters on whom the skies smiled.
Addendum: see this article here about a first-time British racer in the UK regional press.
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