By the U.S. Ski Team, Ski Racing Magazine News Service and idaho Mountain Express
The uphill battle of American Lindsey Vonn, 26, to win her fourth consecutive World Cup women's overall title got a little steeper last weekend because weather canceled downhill and super combined races at Sestriere, Italy—and Vonn leads the season standings in both disciplines.
Persistent fog and snowfall muddied the outlook for Vonn, particularly with the way World Cup women's leader Riesch is performing in speed and technical events.
Vonn remains 145 points behind her good friend Riesch of Germany in the overall hunt. She had been planning to chip away at Riesch's lead during the Sestriere stop.
Reisch, seeking her first overall title, leads Vonn 1,232 to 1,087 just more than halfway through the 2010-11 season which will be interrupted next month by the 2011 World Championships in Riesch's hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Although Vonn leads the downhill, super giant slalom and combined standings and Riesch leads only one discipline—slalom with 420 points—Riesch has amassed 586 points in giant slalom and slalom, compared to Vonn's 157 in GS and SL.
World Cup men managed to run events at Chamonix, France last weekend. Croatia's Ivica Kostelic (1,178 points) extended his overall lead to 475 points over Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland (703) and Didier Cuche of Switzerland (673).
Cuche by winning the Kandahar downhill at Chamonix remained the downhill leader with 379. Kostelic clinched the combined season title with a perfect 300-point score and still leads the slalom standings, 478.
U.S. tech ace and giant slalom leader Ted Ligety is 10th with 434 and Bode Miller 13th, 382.
Fog in Sestriere cancels races
Persistent snowfall and fog in Sestriere, Italy forced race officials to cancel the women's World Cup downhill and super combined races scheduled there Saturday and Sunday.
It was the second women's World Cup weekend to be canceled this season due to weather. Two weeks ago, warm temperatures in Maribor, Slovenia saw the course deteriorate and slalom and GS racers were lost.
As with the Maribor races, International Ski Federation (FIS) officials haven't rescheduled the races—though fitting them in before the 2011 World Championships Feb. 8-20 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany is impossible.
"For sure we're going to miss some races this season," FIS race director Atle Skaardal told Fisalpine.com. "We have to prioritize the next organizers and the next races and be very careful with an already packed race calendar for the rest of the season."
The U.S. Ski Team has moved to its European training base of Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria to prepare for this coming weekend's World Cup giant slalom and slalom scheduled Feb. 4-5 at Arber-Zwiesel, Germany
"It's a pretty packed calendar and it's tough to make up speed races, but weather is a big part of our sport," said U.S. women's alpine head coach Alex Hoedlmoser.
"The speed group will take a couple of days off and get right into the preparation period for Garmisch," Hoedlmoser said. "The technical team has been training hard and will be ready to go in Zwiesel."
Cuche wins another downhill
Chamonix, France is one of those sites that rotates around the World Cup schedule in the Kandahar tradition. Switzerland's Didier Cuche was 13th in the downhill 11 years ago, was tenth seven years ago and second three years back. On Saturday he won the Kandahar downhill at Chamonix.
This could be considered a "trap" race. Right on the heels of the emotion draining physical test of Kitzbuehel and right ahead of the focus created by the World Championships, the batteries could have run a bit dry for Chamonix. Not so for Cuche.
With Italian skier Dominik Paris nestled in the leader's slot Cuche skied masterfully, picking up time at every interval, to register his second straight downhill win (and fourth DH podium of the season). Cuche, 36, gained a little breathing room atop the downhill standings.
Canada's Erik Guay finished in a tie for 19th. He was the only North American point scorer. American Steven Nyman also failed to finish. Travis Ganong led the U.S. in 35th.
Sunday, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic ended January just as he started it, though more dramatically. The World Cup leader took control of the slalom of the Chamonix super combined Sunday. He made up a 2.5-second deficit for his seventh win of January.
Teammate Natko Zrncic-Dim gave the small Croatian team a sweep of the top two positions, the first time in the team's history it has accomplished the feat. Kostelic ended up earning the combined season title.
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, looking to get back into the race for the overall Cup title, placed third.
With no racers in the top 10 after the first (downhill) leg of the Chamonix combined, the U.S. had dismal chances to score but Will Brandenburg posted a strong slalom run to move to 23rd for the day.