24 January 2017 — If you aren’t familiar with it, World Cup alpine racing just completed its version of the Men’s Super Bowl, the Hahnenkamm-Rennen in Kitzbuehel, Austria. There’s a quick primer here if you’re unfamiliar with this particular stop on the white circus.
Things started out great for Team USA when Steven Nyman clocked the fastest time in the first training run on the Streif. This quickly fell apart when Messrs Nyman, Ganong and Weibrecht all crashed spectacularly on the days that followed. While they did dust themselves off and ultimately acquit themselves well, the Streif had taken its toll on the fearlessness needed to strike for the podium.
Friday’s Super G was no surprise when Matthias Mayer won on his home turf, er, snow, followed on the podium by Italian Christof Innerhofer and Swiss Beat Feuz. The aforementioned American hopefuls all placed respectably in the top twenty, with Travis Ganong’s 11th best of the trio. Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud got off to a semi-disappointing start to the weekend with a 9th place finish — disappointing for him, thrilling to about 99.9999991 percent of every other skier on the planet. Overall leader Marcel Hirscher clocked in 24th, which seems to be his custom in Super G races. It may not sound like much but it pushes him seven points closer to the overall title.
Saturday was the big day, the Downhill on the Streif proper (Super G only uses the bottom portion of the course, and slalom is on an adjacent slope). Italy’s Dominik Paris laid down a blistering run from the 9th starting position, and basically went unchallenged until French newcomer Valentin Giraud Moine and French old timer Johan Clarey dug deep and pulled two completely unexpected runs out of wherever that place is that crazy people find the courage to go insanely fast and cheat death. Giraud Moine’s only previous podium was in the DH at Kvitfjell back in early December, so I can’t say that anything like this was really expected.
Clarey perhaps less so; he’s only scored a handful of podiums (no wins) in his career and at age 36 he’s definitely a lion in winter on the world cup circuit. Clarey’s biggest claim to fame was clocking the fastest speed ever in a cup race when he reached 100.6 MPH in Wengen four years ago. Oddly enough he crashed a week later in Kitz and was out for the remainder of the season. Regardless of what he has or hasn’t accomplished, Clarey’s downhill run on the Streif this year is something he’ll always have and will be remembered for years to come. Only in Kitzbuehel can you finish third and obtain this much press coverage.
Fastest run by an American was Nyman who finished 10th. Norway’s Jansrud, who was expected to vie for the victory, was well out of the points in 36th after a series of costly mistakes.
Austrians went bonkers when homeboy Marcel Hirscher claimed first place in Sunday’s Slalom after Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen DNFd the first run. Russian tech standout Alexander Khoroshilov finished third, sandwiching a very surprised Dave Ryding of Great Britain. That’s not a typo, I said Great Britain; he races for the Kandahar Team. Not sure who was more surprised, Ryding or the fans who witnessed his first podium and the first for Queen and country since 1981. Only in Kitzbuehel.
Ladies meanwhile were in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for, indeed, another leg of the Kandahar race, named for the aforementioned team. Saturday’s downhill saw most race fans with eyes wide open as Lindsey Vonn began her run, then shake their heads in amazement when she blistered the course. As mentioned yesterday, Lara Gut, who was previously fastest, simply shrugged and held up her hands to say “what can I do?” Germany’s talented Viktoria Rebensburg was third.
Gut knocked it out of the park Sunday with a victory in the Super G, followed by Stephanie Venier of Austria and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein. Vonn was ninth, and among the notable DNFs were Rebensburg and Anna Veith (nee Fenninger) who is slowly trying to return to championship form.
Today the ladies were in Kronplatz, Italy for GS competition. Italy’s Federica Brignone beat French GS star Tessa Worley and Brignone’s teammate Marta Bassino to the line, followed by notables Gut and Mikaela Shiffrin. Worley leads the hunt for the GS globe, just ahead of Shiffrin and Gut. Sound familiar? The overall right now has Shiffrin about 130 points ahead of Gut, with Worley a distant third. Gut’s best event for sure is the Super G, in which she leads Weirather by about 80 points.
Men were in Schladming today for a slalom competition, results are unofficial but it appears to be Kristoffersen/Hirscher/Khoroshilov. And in fourth place, to prove that Kitzbuehel wasn’t merely a freakish event, we have Dave Ryding in a tie with Italian Stefano Gross.
For the upcoming weekend, the ladies move on to Cortina and the men head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for more Kandahar competition.
We’re back tomorrow with our regular news from your favorite U.S. Ski Resorts, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to elevate Whiteface and Gore among the ranks of eastern resorts.
Photo above: Valentin Giraud Moin hits his marks en route to a second place finish on the Streif course.