He has finally found the taste for victory, “Who was missing” for 356 days: the French skier Clément Nöel won the Chamonix (Haute-Savoie) slalom on Saturday January 30, after a year of waiting. This is the seventh success of his career. The 23-year-old Vosges won over the Verte des Houches ahead of the Swiss Ramon Zenhäusern for 16 hundredths of a second and the Austrian Marco Schwarz (19 hundredths). The three men were already in the lead of the first round, dominated by Marco Schwarz, comfortable leader of the classification of the specialty – Clément Noël finishing third, at 3 hundredths.
The second act, played on a track weighed down by downpours, reshuffled the cards. Swiss Lucas Aerni, only 29e in the starting gate, performed a supersonic round, which allowed him to finish at the foot of the podium (25 places gained). Starting more than two seconds ahead of Aerni, Noël resisted to keep 47 hundredths ahead.
“It feels good, but it was hard”, he shouted in the Kandahar finish area, usually so unassuming. His second round was notably not perfect (15e time) with a small error at the top of the course. “It wasn’t the same snow as last year at all, but I really like the track. The snow was complicated to manage, there were a lot of small jumps. In the second round, I wanted to give everything. It feels really good to win a race again ”, savored, at the microphone of the organizers, the specialist in tight stakes.
First dip in a meteoric rise
This victory should allow the Vosges to ski freed, he who swears no longer aiming for the globe of the specialty. Blame it on a sawtooth start to the season: Noël has only three podiums this winter in eight slaloms and 176 points behind the Austrian Marco Schwarz, a real metronome (seven podiums including two victories), while he does not Only three departures remain on the calendar. Clément Noël has the opportunity to confirm Sunday January 31 during the second slalom scheduled in Chamonix. He could then project himself with full confidence on the Worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy).
Clément Noël had until this winter – the first stop in his career – experienced a meteoric rise: in 2018, then barely 20 years old, he obtained his first places of honor in the World Cup, a title world junior slalom champion and above all two fourth places at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games in slalom – he failed 4 hundredths from the podium – and in parallel team slalom.
The following two seasons confirm his potential, with three victories each winter. In 2019, he was preceded only by legend Marcel Hirscher – the Austrian will retire in September -, whom he had beaten in his den in Kitzbühel.
More than the results, his style of gliding, with straight, direct trajectories, allowed by his large size, is also praised by the entire circuit. “He’s a bit like the perfect kid, we can only be jealous of this kind of guy”, described last winter Fabien Saguez, the national technical director of skiing.
“I just want to win races. I miss the taste of victory. I miss the feeling, the emotions of a victory ”(Clément Noël)
After his victory in Chamonix a year ago, the first in France on the World Cup circuit, Clément Noël was well placed to win the globe of the specialty, only three points behind the Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen, while he remained three events to compete. But the Covid-19 epidemic will put an end in March to the Cirque Blanc and the hopes of the young French prodigy.
This season, the Vosges experienced his first periods of doubt. The start of winter did not live up to expectations, with an elimination in the first round in Alta Badia, then a fifth place in Madonna (Italy), in December. A little worrying, even if Clément Noël never excelled at the start of the season. 2021 has been a better year, but he always lacked that little extra to clinch victory. The fault in particular with the second rounds missed after having been in the lead in Zagreb (Croatia) or in Adelboden (Switzerland), two slaloms which he finally finished in 6e and 8e square.
These performances prevent him from dreaming of the globe this winter. “This year, it’s very compromised. I don’t have it in mind, I just want to win races. I miss the taste of victory. I miss the feeling, the emotions of a victory ”, he explained at a press conference earlier this week.
Little by little, the Frenchman began to reassure himself, with two second places in three races in Austria, in Flachau then in Schladming, Tuesday January 26. “I need to have more security to be more sure of myself, especially in parts where I need not to let go of my skis too much”, he explained.
Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, widely leading the overall World Cup standings, finished eighth, his compatriots Victor Muffat-Jeandet and Jean-Baptiste Grange 13e and 20e. The nightmare continued, however, for Henrik Kristoffersen, released in the first round. A season to quickly forget for the hot Norwegian.