Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alpine World Cup picks up steam at Aspen, Lake Louise

Julia Mancuso rockets to second place in the first run of Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom at Aspen, Colo. She ended up in eighth place. Courtesy photo by Getty Images/AFP—Don Emmert

By the U.S. Ski Team

U.S. Ski Team veterans Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Bode Miller led the Americans over Thanksgiving weekend as the 2010-11 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup made stops at Aspen, Colo. for the women and Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada for men.

The women ran slalom and giant slalom in the Aspen Winternational while the men finally got on the board in speed events at Lake Louise.

Vonn stormed back from a DNF in Saturday's giant slalom to place eighth as the top Yank in Sunday's Aspen slalom. Mancuso was eighth in Saturday's GS. Miller finished eighth in Saturday's Lake Louise season-opening downhill and was 12th in Sunday's super giant slalom.

In the early World Cup standings, women's slalom leader Maria Riesch of Germany tops the women with 234 points, 160 coming as the first-place slalom skier. She is ahead of Finland's Tanja Poutiainen (196). Vonn (85) stands 11th while Mancuso (54) weighs in at 18th place.

Austria's Mario Scheiber (130) has an 11-point lead over Swiss racer Silvan Zurbiggen (119) in the men's race. Miller has 13th place with 54 points and Ted Ligety (21) is 32nd.

Women compete at Aspen

Three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) showed she has the speed to return to the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom podium finishing eighth Saturday to lead the U.S. at the Visa Aspen Winternational.

France's Tessa Worley produced a blistering second run jumping seven spots to make it two Aspen wins in three years. Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) also bagged World Cup points with 18th as three-time World Cup overall winner Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) skied out in the opening run..

NBC will air the women's GS Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. on Versus.

An overflowing sun-glassed crowd roared as Mancuso rocketed to second in the opening run, just three hundredths behind leader and Olympic gold medalist Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany. A small mistake at the top of the course slowed Mancuso enough to keep her off the Aspen podium, despite making up time through the bottom of the course.

"I remembered from the training session last time that you have to charge down the pitch through all the rolls," said Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic GS champion. "I skied pretty consistent with one small mistake in the middle, but then I really picked it up again towards the finish. All in all it was a good run. It's a fine balance between charging hard and taking it easy to finish."

The tricky Aspen set grabbed Vonn yet again as her skis locked up on the grippy snow and bounced her off course.

Joining Mancuso in the second run was Schleper, who was laying down a solid run before a minor speed check bounced her coming onto the flats.

"The last three years I've been right around the top-20," said Schleper. "I want to start getting top-15s, top-10s. I want to get back into that routine."

On Sunday, Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) jumped two spots to finish eighth in the Visa Aspen Winternational slalom.

Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY) celebrated her return to the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup with a 25th place finish. Sweden's Maria Pietilae-Holmner clocked in at 1:46.19 for the first World Cup victory of her career.

Versus will air Sunday's slalom at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 4 and Universal Sports will also carry the race on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at noon.

Vonn put herself in striking distance with 10th in the opening run then produced the fifth fastest second run by attacking the top of an incredibly tight and technical course.

Stiegler, who missed much of the last three seasons with a string of injuries, proved to fans and herself that she can still charge.

"I've tried the last three years to be in Aspen and I finally made it!" exclaimed Stiegler. "I love Aspen, it's one of my favorite hills. It's like being home. Today is the most racing I've done in three years. It's time to just start racing."

Stiegler looked strong on the top and was ahead of the pace, before losing some time on the tricky lower section. However, she was all smiles at the finish, raising her poles to the roar of the Aspen crowd.


"I was pretty tired after the first run so I was a little worried that I was going to be that tired on the bottom but it wasn't as bad as the first run. It's been a long long road to get back to this point, but wow does it feel good to be here," said Stiegler.

Following Sunday's race the women's U.S. Ski Team split up with the speed group heading to Lake Louise for the first speed races of the season, while the technical team heads to Loveland, CO for the opening women's NorAm races.

"I'm just going to get the ball really rolling in Lake Louise and get some confidence for the rest of the season," said Vonn, who has won five consecutive downhill races in Lake Louise. "I feel really comfortable on that hill. It was where I won my first World Cup and I've consistently had success there ever since."

Bode is top Yank at Lake Louise

Two-time Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall champion Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) led the U.S. once again in Lake Louise with 12th in the super G. Tobias Gruenenfelder nabbed the victory for the first win of his career in 1:32.31.

Double U.S. champion Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) posted the best result of his young career with 20th, while 2006 Olympic champ Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) continued to show improvement in speed events with 23rd.

"It is nice to finally get a race under my belt," said Ligety, who was sitting second in the season opening giant slalom before the race was called due to fog. "I felt like I skied well but just didn't have the speed. For the whole U.S. team in general, it's been a lack of volume. Normally we get the bulk of our speed training in Chile and this year we didn't have the opportunity and then we went to New Zealand and had bad weather."

With a consistent track and clear weather, Miller posted another solid finish, just over a half a second behind Gruenenfelder.

For Ganong, who captured both the U.S. downhill and super G title last season, it was all about pushing out the noise to find focus.

"Marco (Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA) radioed up saying it was in good shape and that was just perfect," said Ganong, who climbed 26 spots in the race. "I changed my game plan to charge all the way, and it worked. In the start I was like, calm down, look at this view and let's just have fun. That put me in a peaceful content light. Maybe that's the new thing."

On Saturday, Miller led the U.S. with eighth in the Audi FIS World Cup downhill opener at Lake Louise Saturday. Austria's Michael Walchhofer crossed the finish in 1:47.78 for the first downhill victory of the 2010-11 season.

"It was a beautiful day in Lake Louise, next to no wind and pretty consistent light which led for a fantastic race," said Men's Alpine Head Coach Sasha Rearick. "The team has not trained downhill since New Zealand, so it's been a long time since we've been on our downhill skis. We have been getting a lot of work done in Lake Louise just trying to get back up to speed."

In a convincing fashion, Walchhofer showed the field he still can point it, winning the first World Cup downhill of the season by nearly a half a second. Miller was just over a second off Walchhofer's pace finishing in 1:49.04.

Olympic super G bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) didn't hold back in his first race back after a successful shoulder surgery in the spring.

"Bode skied very solid in the middle on the more technical parts of the course," said Rearick. "I was really stoked with Weibrecht's effort, he threw down an impressive run in the middle section of the hill, but unfortunately had a pretty big bobble going onto the flats that cost him a lot of time."

"We've trained more super G in the past month in Vail," admitted Rearick. "We feel more comfortable on those skis and we are going to go out there and execute our plan, aggressive solid skiing."

Following Sunday's race the men headed to Beaver Creek, CO for the Audi Birds of Prey World Cup Dec. 3-5. With weather reports pointing to snow throughout the week, organizers bumped the first downhill training run to Tuesday, Nov. 30 in order to maximize training opportunities.

"We're looking forward to getting back to Beaver Creek—our home," said Rearick. "It's a hill we know how to charge."

The Audi FIS Birds of Prey World Cup in Beaver Creek will be Dec. 3-5 at the site of the 2015 Alpine FIS Ski World Championships.

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