20 December 2016 — Knowing that Lara Gut would head into the weekend World Cup speed events at Val d’Isere just 100 points behind Mikaela Shiffrin in the overall, I figured ok, it was cool while it lasted but this is where Gut would take charge. Timing for the first splits were all Gut! Gut! But unfortunately for the Swiss starlet, she went off course after coming in too hot on a blind turn in both the combined and the downhill. Incidentally, “sehr gut” translates to something like “very good” — you can figure out the rest. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much for a Shiffrin overall, but I will remind you that when Lindsey Vonn narrowly lost the title to Maria Riesch in 2011, Vonn didn’t make any mistakes even remotely close to the level of what befuddled Gut this weekend. So, whatever you read or saw regarding World Cup, the big news was that Lara Gut DNFd two of three events. Naturally, Gut won the third. Sehr gut indeed, but Gut left Val d’Isere still trailing Shiffrin in the overall…As for the results, men on the roly-poly launch pad in Val Gardena Italy had Norwegians Kjetil Jansrud and Aleks Aamodt Kilde finish 1-2 in Friday’s Super G, with Canadian Erik Guay tallying third. Downhill on Saturday had a surprise win from Austrian Max Franz, his first time atop the podium. I say surprise because Aksel Lund Svindal laid down a blistering run early and it kept a lot of top competitors at bay. So when Franz edged Svindal from the 26th starting position, it was quite a surprise. American Steve Nyman finished third, adding to his record as perhaps the all time greatest finisher at Val Gardena. Speaking of Americans, good to see a top ten finish from Travis Ganong, and especially from Bryce Bennett, who managed to do so from 54th starting slot. Sunday’s GS event saw Marcel Hirscher top the podium as expected, with Frenchman Mathieu Faivre and Italian Florian Eisath rounding out the podium. Back to the ladies in Val d’Isere where combined event on Friday saw rising Slovenian star Ilka Stuhec grab top honors, followed by Michelle Gisin of Switzerland and Sofia Goggia of Italy. Stuhec and Goggia are both having break-out seasons IMHO. Downhill Saturday was again Stuhec and Goggia first and third after the aforementioned Gut miscue, this time with Austrian Cornelia Huetter in second. Gut finally found the course Sunday in the Super G, edging Tina Weirather by little more than a tenth; Italy’s Elena Curtoni was third. The win puts Gut just a few points behind Shiffrin in the overall and it’s certainly shaping up to be an exciting season on the ladies’ side. As for the men’s overall? Well as long as Herr Hirscher is healthy, turn out the lights….UPDATE…Rookie racer Cyprien Sarrazin (FRA) tallied an impressive first podium/first win in the dramatic dual GS event in Alta Badia last night, besting Carlo Janka and Kjetil Jansrud. Ladies GS scheduled for Courcheval today cancelled due to high winds.
Photo above: Reigning overall champ Lara Gut twentysome years ago, staying on track a lot better than she did in Val d’Isere this weekend. All kidding aside, the Swiss champion is an incredible skier and clearly the favorite in the overall running. Photo courtesy laragut.ch