Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kostelic, Kroell on top of the podium at Wengen

By the U.S. Ski Team and Ski Racing Magazine News Service

Audi FIS World Cup alpine men stopped in the scenic village of Wengen, Switz. last weekend for three races including the 81st Lauberhorn downhill—the oldest and longest of all World Cup races.

But it was a technical racer named Ivica Kostelic of Croatia who stole the show with wins in the super combined and slalom on Friday and Sunday at Wengen. Kostelic extended his World Cup overall lead to 726 points—353 coming from his first-place slalom total.

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway is in second place with 511 points, while U.S. technical ace and giant slalom leader Ted Ligety is ninth with 409 and Bode Miller 11th, 276.

Meanwhile, World Cup women's giant slalom and slalom races Saturday and Sunday at Maribor, Slovenia were canceled because of warm temperatures near 60 degrees Fahrenheit that deteriorated the course. The spring-like temps had failed to drop below 40 F in the last 10 days.

The women move to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for downhill and super giant slalom Jan. 21-23 (Friday and Sunday SG, downhill Saturday).

World Cup men have their Hahnenkamm weekend at Kitzbuehel, Austria Jan. 21-23 followed by the annual Schladming slalom Jan. 25.

For the men, World Cup racing resumes today, Wednesday, Jan. 20 in Kitzbuehel, Austria with a two days of downhill training on the notorious Streif followed by the 71st Hahnenkamm races starting Friday. At Kitzbuehel, SG is Friday, downhill Saturday and slalom/super combined Sunday.

Kroell wins Lauberhorn downhill

On a near perfect Saturday for ski racing, and apparently for race spectating as well, Austria Klaus Kroell unhinged a Swiss celebration by collecting his third career World Cup win at Switzerland's premier skiing event, the Lauberhorn downhill.

Kroell, without a win since March of 2009 but just off the downhill podium twice this season, finished a scant .14 ahead of the old darling of Swiss racing, Didier Cuche. Last season's Swiss winner of the race, Carlo Janka, placed third within four ticks of the tenths clock.

It was the first Austrian win of the race since 2005 when Michael Walchhofer ruined the Swiss party. He finished 11th on the day.


U.S. downhill ace Bode Miller skied well enough to secure eight place as the Americans faced the race without their top three pure downhillers—Andrew Weibrecht to a shoulder injury, Marco Sullivan to a head injury and Steven Nyman to a "tweaked back" sustained in the downhill leg of Friday's combined event.

"I was pushing it today, especially through the super G turns," said Miller. "I just couldn't generate speed."

Meanwhile, two-time Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom champion Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) jumped into the Lauberhorn downhill points Monday after a U.S. Ski Team appeal was accepted by the FIS to disqualify French Racer Alexandre Bouillot for missing the last gate.

The disqualification moved Ligety into 30th place for his first downhill points since the 2007 World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switz. where he finished a surprise fourth on a shortened and turny track. The result also gave the U.S. Ski Team another quota spot for downhill.

In Friday's Lauberhorn super combined, Kostelic blasted the soft, slushy slalom leg for his third World Cup win of January, padding his lead in the overall standings.

Ligety had been 23rd after the downhill leg and finished ninth. Miller, winner of the combined at Wengen last season finished sixth, his second best finish of the season after a third in the parallel city event in Munich Jan.2. Tim Jitloff posted 24th, for his first World Cup combined score.

Ligety pulled no punches in his assessment of the slalom hill the Mannlichen. "The course is just bottomless slush," Ligety said. "If you had powder skis on it would be like skiing corn. I was lucky to be one of the first guys down it."

In Sunday's slalom, Kostelic claimed his fourth win in the last seven races. He lost all of his first-run advantage on the sun-ravaged Mannlichen course.

On the second run, he turned on the afterburners and churned his way through snow the consistency of room temperature butter to add the Wengen slalom victory to his first-place results at Munich, Germ. and Adelboden, Switz.

The Americans ran into immediate trouble with the soft conditions and lost Ligety and Miller to the course in the first run. David Chodounsky got a second run and moved up to finish 20th for the second Cup score of his career and second in the last three slalom races.

Two racers, Austria's Manfred Pranger and Akira Sasaki of Japan, were also disqualified during Sunday's slalom. That development bumped Crested Butte racer Chodounsky to a career-best 19th.

With half of the season's slaloms done, Kostelic is the man to beat. With two more slaloms this month (Kitzbuehel Jan. 23 and Schladming Jan. 25) he could ride a hot streak into a rout.

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