There are now just a few days left for the 2020/2021 Ski World Cup, which on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th December will experience its first act in Ponte di Legno Passo del Tonale, the scene of a sprint race and a vertical race.
The Italy team will try to take advantage of the home factor, with Robert Antonioli from Valtellina observed special, called to defend the title won last winter. The 30-year-old from Valfurva is the holder of the crystal ball, winner of three editions of the World Cup (2017, 2019 and 2020) and now on the hunt for poker.
Antonioli, who last year graduated from the Italian vertical champion in Ponte di Legno, is ready for his debut, the beacon of a team that has dominated the international scene in recent years. «It is never easy to make predictions in the first races of the season - comments Antonioli - On paper the athletes to beat are always the same, but there may be new opponents. For my part, I feel I have done what I had to do and I feel ready to start».
The difficult situation linked to the Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone to review their training programs, but did not compromise preparation.
«As a team Italy we managed to train well, - adds Antonioli - compared to the past, we had to work a little more on our own and even when we did the rallies with the national team, we organized ourselves differently, dividing ourselves into two or three groups, depending on the situation, in order to avoid any possible risk of contagion».
Now it's time to uncover the cards. «We will start again with two fast races, one vertical and one sprint - explains again - For us it's okay, since until a few days ago there wasn't much snow and we weren't able to do great downhill training. The most fearsome will be the Swiss, who have specialized in vertical and fast races, while we Italians are still oriented towards versatility».
Antonioli has always been a protagonist at Ponte di Legno and aims to confirm his feeling with the Passo del Tonale area.
«I have a good feeling with this location - confirms the CS Army champion - Here, last year, I won both the vertical race and the sprint of the Italian championships. The air of "home" is good for me and I hope it is the same this time».
How do you assess your condition ahead of your World Cup debut? «My preparation method is more or less always the same - Antonioli replies - I should reach peak form in February and March, for the World Championships, but I think I can be competitive even in the first races».
One of the goals of the italian champion is to win the specialty World Cup in the vertical, a laurel that he still lacks. The races next weekend, in this sense, will represent a first important appointment.
«In every race I start to win, but we must always consider that there are also others - concludes Antonioli - I still have goals to achieve, there are trophies that I would like to be able to put on the board before quitting. Above all, the specialty World Cup in the vertical race and a gold medal in the vertical. The other big goal for this season is the Adamello Ski Raid, which I haven't managed to win yet».
The very classic international ski mountaineering event will be held on 10 April and will be organized by the same committee that, next weekend, will give life to the opening of the 2020/2021 World Cup.
The program of the two days of Ponte di Legno will open on Saturday 19 December from the sprint race, with qualifications at 4 pm, followed by the semifinals and the finals, staged on the track obtained on the final part of the Corno d'Aola track, illuminated for the occasion.
On Sunday 20 December, starting at 10, it will be the turn of the vertical race. The start will be given near the valley station of the Corno d’Aola slope, arriving at high altitude.