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Alpine Snowboard World Cup: Claudia Riegler looks forward to 'fantastic' Austrian homecoming

The FIS Alpine Snowboard World Cup tour makes a familiar stop this week as the riders descend on the slopes of Bad Gastein in Austria for two days of high-octane racing.

A host on the tour since 2001, this spa resort south of Salzburg has staged more Alpine Snowboard World Cup racing events, 42, than any other venue – and you can see why.

“For sure it’s the steepest and most challenging course,” Austrian veteran Claudia Riegler (AUT). “I’m sure they will prepare a great racing slope for us but it’s what I like about Bad Gastein.”

With an average slope of 34 degrees, the 262-metre course – which drops 84 metres in total – promises two days of thrilling action, starting on Tuesday with a parallel slalom under the lights.

The superstars of Alpine Snowboard will then represent their countries in a mixed team event, the first of the season.

Overall leader Karl looks for slalom boost

Current overall men’s leader Benjamin Karl (AUT) is hoping this race goes better than the first parallel event in Davos, Switzerland where he failed to qualify for the knockout rounds.

“I have three podiums in the PGS and I think a 17th place in the slalom so I need to do some slalom trainings I guess,” he joked. “I hope it will be better in Bad Gastein. It will be fast so I think it will be good.”

The Olympic PGS champion and his teammates will enjoy homefield advantage as the Austrian team train at the resort during the off-season. He will have to fend off a deep field of competition to win his second race in a row after topping the podium in Scuol, Switzerland on Saturday. Fellow veteran Andreas Prommegger (AUT) has several podiums and one individual victory here and will be looking for a first win of the season.

Maurizio Bormolini (ITA), meanwhile, will be looking for a repeat of his victory in Bad Gastein last season. “Why not? Maybe I can do it back-to-back. I will do my best to try and do it,” Bormolini said. “I know really well the slope in Bad Gastein, I like it a lot so it is possible to go back-to-back. We will see.”

“If I tell you the secret then I have to kill you,” Bormolini said of his four World Cup podiums on this hill. “No, but really, I think the secret is I liked the slope the first year I raced there and then the atmosphere of the night event is a different show. I am really motivated when I go to Bad Gastein. Maybe the steepness part of the slope is the secret for me but there is no big secret, just having a big motivation to do my best there.”

Bormolini’s countrymen are also among the pre-race favourites. Daniele Bagozza (ITA) won the first parallel slalom event of the season in Davos, with Edwin Coratti (ITA) placed third.

Riegler (AUT) still chasing wins at 50

On the women’s side, overall leader Ramona Theresia Hofmeister (GER) will look to get back to winning ways. She raced out of the gates this season with three straight wins including the parallel race in Davos, but finished way off the podium on Saturday.

Sabine Schoeffman (AUT) finished third in Davos after a third place in the PGS race seven days earlier, and says she benefits from the tight schedule – “you get in race mode”.

Teammate Daniele Ulbing (AUT) is another one to watch. She won at Bad Gastein last season, her third World Cup victory on this mountain.

The evergreen Riegler (AUT) should not be counted out either. The 50-year-old finished second in Bad Gastein last season, one of 11 podiums, including three victories, at this venue in a storied career.

“I always love it in Gastein, riding on home soil," said Riegler. "I had really good results there, also not satisfying ones.

"I’m curious how it will work out for me, but for sure it will be a fantastic race, they are always working on a lot to make a perfect race for us and I‘m really looking forward to it, to friends and family, and a loud and supportive audience.”

With conditions unlike anything else the circuit, no wonder Austria’s record at Bad Gastein is so good: nine individual victories, seven in the mixed team event. Expect them to lead the charge again this time around.

Credit: FIS

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