Adam Lambert, who came out all guns blazing last season winning three Europa World Cups – two of which were in Val Thorens – said that he’s in “a pretty good spot going into the next few races”.
“365 days ago I would not be thinking that I would be here. Everything last year had to go almost perfectly to the tee, I got those two wins at Val Thorens and that win at Grasgehren a month later and that just got me my first start,” he said.
“But if I hadn’t gotten those I probably wouldn’t have gotten start in Feldberg and if I hadn’t gotten seventh at Feldberg I probably wouldn’t have been able to race in Sierra Nevada at the World Championships.
“So everything last season happened really quick and it happened in a really good order for me I feel and I’m super excited.”
While the 20-year-old is the only one out of his OWIA teammates to have competed in Val Thorens, he believes it only gives him a “minute advantage” coming into the World Cup.
“The course is not going to be the same, Europa Cup course is smaller, it’s only made for four people. When we go to the World Cup it’s going to be much bigger, it’s going to be made for six people in the line,” he said.
“I guess I know the mountain but I don’t know the course, maybe there is a slight advantage there but I wouldn’t say it’s anything … it’s nothing major.”
As for the rest of the Aussies, the thought of having never competed in Val Thorens before doesn’t faze them at all – after all, as coach Ben Wordsworth pointed out, the team hadn’t competed in Cerro Catedral before either.
“We went to Argentina as well and we hadn’t been there before on that course and our guys are good, they’re good with learning courses pretty quickly through their skill level,” he said.
“I’m sure our guys will be quick.”
OWIA athlete and Sochi Olympian, Jarryd Hughes, added that the advantage of there having never been a World Cup in Val Thorens means “everyone is on a pretty level playing field”.
“I have been preparing for this event really well with the Reign Snowboarding team, we had an amazing camp in Finland and I think it’s setting me up for a great season ahead,” he said.
“People haven’t ridden the course, it’s not like [there’s] particular fall lines which people can look out for and have an advantage from previous years,” he said.
“It’s a really good opportunity to go and test yourself out and pick up the course as quick as you can and put down your best performance. By the time finals roll round you’ve probably had eight or nine runs in the course in total over a couple of days.”
Two-time Olympian Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin will head into the first event of the Cross Alps Tour after winning double gold in Argentina at the last World Cup meet -- but he’s taking it one day at a time and considers each race a fresh start.
“Winning the last two races doesn’t put me any step ahead for that next race in terms of deciding Val Thorens as a result. It doesn’t put me any further towards the finish line than any other of my competitors. We will all still start at the start line – even,” he said.
“I’ve been waking up every single day thinking about boards and working on the way I eat and training, imagining racing and trying to pull all these little tiny threads out of who I am as a competitor and as a person and how to be better every day so that when I get to the race I can win.”
Lambert, Bolton and Pullin recently joined up with Belle Brockhoff, to train in Pitztal, Austria ahead of the Cross Alps tour.
Brockhoff, who has already been in Europe for two months working on her technique, said that it was great to have her teammates around so that they could all work off of each other.
“The guys are a lot stronger than I am, so Cam, Chumpy and Adam are a lot faster,” Brockhoff said.
“I can jump in with any one of those guys and be challenged, which is awesome.”
The 24-year-old Sochi Olympian says that she’s heading into Val Thorens “aiming to compete” but just eight-and-a-half months out of knee surgery her number one priority will be to not risk another injury, taking it “day-by-day, heat-by-heat”.
“I don’t feel held back at all by my knee, I don’t think about my knee when I’m riding, I’m just purely working on technique,” she said.
“I’ll watch the course testing, I’ll do the training if everything is up for it.”
Val Thorens signals the start of a jam-packed schedule that will see our Aussies compete in three World Cups within two weeks crossing the European continent and racing in Montafon, Austria and Cervinia, Italy.
You can keep up to date with the live results HERE and on OWIA’s Twitter account.