Race preview: Everything is set for an exciting women's premiere on the "Gran Becca"!

The start of the speed skiers' season means that the athletes are finally ready to compete after an intensive period of preparation. The first races in Cervinia and Zermatt serve as a welcome assessment of the current state of form and often also point the way for the rest of the season. The starting position for the downhill races in Cervinia and Zermatt could hardly be more exciting!

Thursday's training session showed that the athletes are full of anticipation and drive. The "Gran Becca" piste is 2910 metres long and has a difference in altitude of 665 metres. The premiere of the innovative two-country project at the foot of the Matterhorn may be starting on Italian soil for the women, but it can still be described as a home race for both the Italian and Swiss athletes.

If we take a look at the top favourites for this weekend's races, the title must be "All against Sofia Goggia"! In the new season, victory in the women's downhill races will once again go to the 31-year-old Italian, who has won the overall downhill rankings for the last three years. It will be exciting to see whether Goggia will adapt her spectacular skiing style in the context of a completely new course.

Elena Curtoni (4th Downhill World Cup 22/23) from the host country Italy is also one of the contenders for a top place. Also competing for the co-hosts are: Federica Brignone, Laura Pirovano, Marta Bassino, Nicol Delago, Nadia Delago, Monica Zanoner, Elena Dolmen, Teresa Runggaldier, Vicky Bernardi, Karoline Pichler, Roberta Melesi). Who will definitely be allowed to start will be decided immediately before the race.

From a Swiss perspective, last year's overall third in the Downhill World Cup, Corinne Suter, can certainly be counted among the favourites. The specialist for major events (Olympic and World Champion) will be able to utilise her experience on the new course. Lara Gut Behrami has made a very good start to the new season with a victory in the giant slalom in Sölden. With her experience and the momentum of the Sölden triumph, she is also one of the favourites.

In the country of the co-hosts, the current world champion Jasmin Flury is also one of the contenders for a top place. In addition to the riders mentioned, the line-up includes the following eight other athletes:  Joana Hählen, Priska Nufer, Michelle Gisin, Delia Durrer, Stephanie Jenal, Juliana Suter, Noémie Kolly and Jasmina Suter. Who will definitely be allowed to start will be decided immediately before the race.

The 33-year-old Slovenian Ilka Stuhec is also one of the favourites in the speed disciplines. If the experienced Slovenian is in as good a form as she was at the end of last season (victory at the World Cup final in Soldeu), she is likely to be one of Sofia Goggia's first challengers.

It will also be interesting to see how the athletes from Austria (Mirjam Puchner, Nina Ortlieb), Norway (Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, Ragnhild Mowinckel) and Germany (Kira Weidle) perform. They all belong to the extended group of favourites.

A new season always provides a stage for new protagonists in the World Cup who are in the spotlight. Perhaps already on the "Gran Becca"?

We are curious!