Friday, March 18, 2011

Mancuso wins downhill, Vonnís lead is precarious

American Julia Mancuso charges to her first World Cup win of the 2010-11 season Wednesday in the womenís downhill at Lenzerheide, Switz. Courtesy photo by Alexis Boi-chard/Agence Zoom/Getty Im-ages

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

and Idaho Mountain Express

Three-time defending Audi FIS World Cup women's overall champion Lindsey Vonn will carry a precarious 27-point lead over German Maria Riesch in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall standings into the final two races of the season this weekend in Switzerland.

Vonn had a tough break in her quest for the overall globe after Thursday's super G was canceled due to overnight rain and wet snow. At World Cup Finals, canceled races are not rescheduled. Vonn had secured the season-long discipline title on March 6 in Tarvisio, Italy as part of a weekend where she also locked the downhill and super combined crowns.

Julia Mancuso (Squaw Val-ley, CA), who won the final downhill on Wednesday, will close the season third in the super G standings behind Vonn and Riesch. Women's slalom is scheduled for today, Friday.

Here are the final World Cup Super G standings: 1—Lindsey Vonn, Vail, CO, 560. 2—Maria Riesch, Germany, 389. 3—Julia Mancuso, Squaw Valley, CA, 315.

Current World Cup Overall standings: 1—Vonn 1,705. 2—Riesch 1,678. 3—Tina Maze, Slo-venia, 1,039.

Mancuso takes downhill win

It had been a long four years since American Julia Mancuso had topped a World Cup po-dium. She was back with vengeance Wednesday as women's competition at the 2011 World Cup Finals kicked off with the downhill and plenty of excitement at Lenzer-heide, Switz.

Mancuso's impressive win, the fifth of her career, left no doubters as she screamed down the course 0.81 seconds faster than second-place finisher, Swiss Lara Gut. Downhill world champion, Austrian Elizabeth Goergl finished third, 1.15 seconds back.

Mancuso's last win came in March of 2007 with a downhill victory in Tarvisio, Italy.

"It's the first time in four years, it's great to be back win-ning," said Mancuso. "I watched Lara (Gut) ski so I knew I had to ski really fast because she nailed it. That's all it was, all or nothing this time, last downhill of the season so it feels good."

American Lindsey Vonn claimed her fourth consecutive downhill globe mathematically two weeks ago in Tarvisio but was finally able to lay a big kiss on her trophy today after fin-ishing fourth.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day also followed Vonn as she took back the overall lead from German Maria Riesch (17th today) for the first time since late December. The re-sults saw a 50-point swing in the overall standings as Vonn went from 23 points behind to 27 points ahead of Riesch.

"It was tough conditions out there today with really soft snow and flat light," said Vonn. "It was really easy to make mistakes and unfortunately I made one on the top of the course in a pretty bad place and lost a lot of speed but I was able to ski the bottom well. Fourth place is still a great result, I'm really happy for Julia for win-ning, she skied amazingly well."

The win was enough to move Mancuso into third in the sea-son-long downhill standings behind Vonn and Riesch in second.

Today's women's race was held after the men's on the same short (2320-meter), tech-nical course.

Mancuso, who had the sec-ond fastest time in yesterday's training run, said the turny course fit her style.

"Leaving the start gate I knew I had to push really hard and be fast and I wanted to win," said Mancuso, the penul-timate racer down the course. "I knew it would be a good op-portunity here for me and those don't come around all the time so I took advantage of it and I'm just really happy.

"I've been working through injuries and working hard for the past four years and I'm fi-nally back on the podium, it feels great," said Mancuso who was also back in the top three of any discipline standings for the first time since 2007. "I switched to Voelkl skis [this season] and everything has been working really well for me so it just gives me a lot of con-fidence that next year is going to be even better."

The field of competitors in each race at the World Cup Fi-nals is trimmed down to the top 25 ranked skiers in each disci-pline along with the reigning world champion and world jun-ior champ. Only 23 started to-day.

Riesch, winner of three World Cup downhills this year, was slowed by a mid-course mistake that led to her fourth sub-top-15 result in a race she finished this season.

Riesch was 216 points ahead of Vonn less than a month ago but a DNF and a 29th-place fin-ish in last weekend's tech races in Spindleruv coupled with solid result from Vonn saw the momentum shift toward the three-time overall champion heading into the closing week of competition. Riesch has never won a overall title.

The women's slalom is scheduled for today, Friday, March 18 and the giant slalom is slated for Saturday, March 19. The season will close with a team event Sunday, March 20.

Cuche captures downhill globe

The record will show Adrien Theaux won his first World Cup race by .01 over Joachim Puchner in Lenzerheide on Wednesday.

The real win went to Didier Cuche, the next to the last starter on a warm hazy morn-ing. Cuche finished fourth, be-hind third-finishing Aksel Lund Svindal but with that placing won his fourth World Cup downhill title. Michael Walchhofer, in his final go-around on the Cup tour, placed 11th and lost his own chance at a fourth DH title and its corre-sponding place in history.

Among men, only the great Franz Klammer owns more downhill titles, with five. Peter Mueller, Franz Heinzer, Ste-phen Eberharter, Luc Alphand and Walchhofer have each won the DH crown three times.

Cuche crossed the finish, entertained the crowd with his tradition ski flip and then ran around the finish hoisting the World Cup globe, signifying his newest title to the delight of thousands of Swiss supporters.

The popular 36-year-old vet-eran had been called on to hold a press conference after the first and only training session on the Lenzerheide trail for the men to announce he was going to race another season.

He had said last weekend this could be his last season after a run-in with FIS officials left him with a bill for a 5,000 sf fine after he complained about course conditions at Kvitfjell, Norway. He resigned his posi-tion on the Athletes Committee instead.

Cuche had proven nearly unbeatable in January when he posted Cup downhill wins at Chamonix and in Kitzbuehel winning the Hahnenkamm downhill in rough icy condi-tions for the fourth time (he says third time, one win was a two-run affair in 1998).

The race definitely seemed to favor the early runners. Last starter Ted Ligety tweeted that light was THE deciding factor. "(Cuche) would have won by 1.5 seconds if he ran in the sun."

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