Andorra la Vella, 20 March 2022.
The Europa Cup Finals are making great memories of competition at the highest level, spectacular runs, and exciting victories. But they will also be remembered for the images of a team working at 150% for hours to do everything possible to prepare the courses affected by adverse weather conditions. Finally, despite the high temperatures, the rain, the Saharan dust, and the fog, it was possible to hold all the planned technical events on the Avet course in Soldeu. As for the Àliga course in El Tarter, the team's motivation and capacity to react made it possible to hold the training sessions for the downhill races, but the humidity made it impossible to hold the actual races. In this respect, the team's capacity to organize and overcome problems has been one of the aspects most praised by the International Ski Federation (FIS).
Wim Rossel, FIS coordinator of the men's Europa Cup, highlighted the “motivation” of the organization, as being much higher than that of other venues. “In other places in Europe maybe they tell you, we can't do it, it's too hard, but here you never give up, you're amazing.” His counterpart for the women's events, Jordi Pujol, shared this opinion: “One of the features that differentiates Andorra from other venues is the welcome and the attitude, the enthusiasm that everyone puts in.” In fact, this is what the teams and racers who have competed in Soldeu - El Tarter these days value most. Pujol has assessed the week of the Finals as “very difficult,” but at the same time, “it has been a great lesson for future competitions in the country, because things have been done that had never been done before,” referring to the conditioning of the Àliga course. Among those competitions could be the 2027 World Championships which Andorra is a candidate for, and which will be decided this May.
In fact, the general manager of Grandvalira-Ensisa, David Hidalgo, recognized that, due to the weather, “no day has been easy, but a monumental effort has been made.” In this regard, he highlighted the team's ability to react, working at action stations to save the courses. “When the weather is good it seems that everything goes smoothly, but when things go wrong that's when it's time to show what the team is made of,” he said.
For his part, the Minister of Tourism for Andorra, Jordi Torres, stated that “we have once again shown that we are the best candidates to host the 2027 World Championships,” taking into account the capacity of “the organization, technicians, and volunteers, giving everything that they have.”
The mayor of Canillo, Francesc Camp, added to this another positive reason for being a firm candidate for the Championships which, in fact, was one of the demands of the FIS. “They always tell us: you work very well and in a very professional way, but in the sporting aspect you lack references. Well, now we can tell you that we have it, and just the year in which we are candidates to host the World Championships,” he said.
This reference point is Joan Verdú, who has proved himself at many venues and race courses. It is also clear: “We have nothing to be envious of.” Àliga and Avet “are two great courses, to which we must add the enthusiasm of an entire country.” Perhaps other countries “are more accustomed to hosting major events, but an environment as special as the one here cannot be recreated.”
Team coaches confirm this view. Damiano Scolari, coach of the Italian women's team, stated that “for me it is the best organization on the Europa Cup circuit and one of the best World Cup venues.” Andrew Sawson, his Swedish counterpart, added that “Grandvalira is a perfect place for Europa Cup finals, World Cup finals, and also for the World Championships: you are the perfect candidate.”
Finally, Conrad Blanch, member of the Executive Committee of the Andorra 2027 Championship Candidacy, stressed that “Andorra always responds, and this is the best credibility you can give to a bid.” The images “of more than 100 people working to repair the Àliga course are epic,” he stated. “Andorra's capacity to respond to problems is enormous and once again, it has not failed.” This, added to “some courses together with first class services and the enthusiasm of country, with a great tradition for skiing,” are an excellent letter of introduction.
An exciting women's slalom closes out the week of competitions
The week of competitions closed this Sunday with the women's slalom event on the Avet course, which kept the excitement going until the last moment. The winner was Aline Danioth of Switzerland, who was also the winner for the whole discipline, unseating Franziska Gritsch. The Austrian had to settle for second place, while third place went to the Italian Lara Della. In the general classification for the discipline, the first two places were the same, while third place went to Elsa Fermbaeck of Sweden.
At the end of the race, Danioth stressed that “the conditions were very good” and that it was “a great mental and physical challenge, I'm very happy to have achieved it.”
The Andorran Carla Mijares, who had her best race in a Europa Cup with a 21st place finish and the fourth fastest time in the second round, was very satisfied with her results.
Although it was not possible to hold the men's downhill on the Àliga course, the prizes for the discipline were given. Ralph Weber of Switzerland was proclaimed European Downhill Champion in the men's category. Lars Roesti, also Swiss, finished in second place while Marco Pfiffner from Liechtenstein was third.
Giovanni Franzoni and Franziska Gritsch, Champions of the Europa Cup
The Grandvalira Europa Cup Finals culminated with the awards for the champions of the 2021–2022 season. In the men's category, the winner was the Italian Giovanni Franzoni, with 709 FIS points, thanks to his first place in the super-G and fourth in the giant slalom. The podium of the general classification was completed by two Swiss skiers: Fadri Janutin and Ralph Weber.
In the women's events, despite not getting the slalom, the Austrian Franziska Gritsch, one of the few skiers who competes in all four disciplines, was proclaimed Champion of the Europa Cup, with 1068 FIS points. Second place went to the slalom champion, Aline Danioth, and third place went to the Austrian Christina Ager, winner of the super-G discipline.
For Gritsch, being champion of the general classification “is spectacular”, since despite the fact that the season did not start with the best results, “in the end I worked hard and I'm very happy with the final outcome.” Gritsch considers that it would be “a very nice milestone” to be able to return to the podium in Andorra during the 2023 World Cup Finals, because she considers it to be a spectacular place and “a great job was done to have the courses ready.” She hopes the 2027 World Championships are given to Andorra due to this.