Friday the 13th: Midpoint in the season, with the Lauberhorn in the balanceWENGEN, Switzerland – Friday the 13th, the day on which Giorgio Rocca and Bode Miller straddled gates in the Wengen super combined, was notable for another reason: it was the midpoint in the men’s World Cup season.
There are 19 races completed and 20 left to go. At this point, Austria’s Benni Raich leads the overall standings. ‘This year is not going like the last year’ said Raich, who won Friday’s race. ‘Every one of the biggest favorites is not so much ahead. That’s why it’s very close now.’
Actually, not really. Raich leads the standings with 706 points, having won 360 of them in the last week alone. He will not race the Lauberhorn downhill on Saturday. Behind him in the standings is his countryman Michael Walchhofer with 520 points, followed by Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves, tied for third with 489 points apiece.
Raich will not race the Lauberhorn downhill on Saturday so he can rest up for the slalom on Sunday and Kitzbuehel next weekend. Rahlves and Miller are both eyeing the classic Wengen downhill – Rahlves for the title points and Miller for some vindication after a tough week of scandal.
The last American to win here was Kyle Rasmussen, who in 1995 beat Werner Franz of Austria by 0.08 seconds. Before that, the last American man to win the Lauberhorn downhill was Bill Johnson, who arrived here at the peak of his powers in 1984 just before his gold at the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo.
In 2003, Rahlves finished second to Stephan Eberharter of Austria, and in 2005 Miller finished an exhausted third.
Erik Guay of Canada won the final training run this year, and in the downhill portion of Friday’s combined he had the single fastest recorded speed as he exited the Haneggschuss going 97 miles per hour.
The last Canadian to win the Lauberhorn downhill was Ken Read, who won in 1980 in the heyday of the ‘Crazy Canucks.’ Read is now the president of Canada’s alpine ski team.
Invented in 1930, the Lauberhorn is one of the most unique and traditional races in the sport. Covering almost three miles, the course includes high-speed turns, sharp dropoffs and numerous sidehills.
Edging up against cliffsides and speeding across undulating pastures in the shadow of some of Europe’s highest peaks, it even passes through a tunnel underneath train tracks.
The downhill is quirky and un-rhythmical, with strange obstacles, ancient traditions and course features so old that no one remembers why they got the names they have. All this led veteran ski journalist and former U.S. Ski Team downhiller Stephen Porino to liken it to a miniature golf course.
The famed Lauberhorn downhill won’t start until 12:30 CET on Saturday (6:30 a.m. on the East Coast). Tune in here for complete coverage.