BORMIO, Italy — The weather changed drastically from the women’s race the previous day, but the course on the same section of the Stelvio deteriorated similarly for the later runners in the men’s slalom held in the Italian village known for its classic annual downhill.
Germany’s Felix Neureuther got the break he’s been seeking all season, overtaking Marcel Hirscher by .36 of a second with a technically solid second run to claim the victory just months removed from ankle surgery. The German’s last victory was in Lenzerheide last season. Italian fans blew hard in their horns for Manny Moelgg who wound up on the podium in third.
The talk of the race, aside from Neureuther, was Japan’s Naoki Yuasa who took advantage of his early start in the second run to move from 21st into fourth on the day. Yuasa was ninth in last year’s World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide and also podiumed in Madonna di Campiglio in 2012, but his blazing second run still surprised the crowd and fellow competitors.
The Americans were unable to capitalize on their coach Bernd Brunner’s first run set which swung across the hill and featured frequent rhythm changes.
“The past couple of days we’ve seen something like that — not exactly like that — but we definitely saw some swingy sections. I didn’t know (Bernd) was setting, so I would have paid more attention I guess. You have to run everything in training, wide open and turny,” said David Chodounsky. “I prefer steeps, so Val d’Isere I really liked. The snow kind of threw me off guard here. It’s pretty warm so it was really grippy. It was tough to control the skis. I just had a few too many mistakes. … When it’s a flat course, you can’t have any mistakes.”
The Americans trained with the German men in the days leading up to Bormio, and exposure to Brunner’s style of setting may have strategically benefited Neureuther and Fritz Dopfer who both finished in the top 8. German coach Hannes Wallner set the second run, but the Americans gained no advantage.
Chodounsky appeared to overski the flat hill on both runs, but he managed to finish in a tie for 15th. The day was trickier for Ted Ligety who started off with a rough warm-up and went downhill from there.
“In warm-up today I got a gate back up in the face. It went off my leg and smashed into my nose. There’s a good blood mark up on the training hill,” said Ligety who required stitches to close the gash on the bridge of his nose before first run.
Ligety’s first run was not what he had hoped for, and he lost pressure on his outside ski on the second run, sliding on his hip and nearly coming to a stop. Still, he jumped up to his feet and salvaged points in 27th.
“Not great, but I think I skied relatively well in sections, just made some mistakes here and there. This hill is so flat, so you definitely pay for those little mistakes,” he remarked.
Nolan Kasper, who podiumed in 2011 and posted two top-10 results in the 2012 season before facing a number of injury setbacks, struggled to qualify for second run from bib 34. He, along with teammates Colby Granstrom and Will Brandenburg, found themselves outside the flip. Granstrom finished first run in 31st, just .12 of a second shy of qualifying.
“I know racing a little more worked a few years ago when I did a bunch of races and got some confidence and then started skiing well in World Cups. Maybe that’s something I need to go do,” said Kasper. “These types of conditions so far have been tough. I thought I had a chance in Val d’Isere, but one mistake and I was out. Once it grooved up here it favored the early runners because they can do whatever they want. It’s good for training because it forces you to think about what you need to do right, but when you’re racing if you don’t do something right you really pay, and you come down four or five seconds out. It’s pretty brutal.”
Only four athletes outside of the top 30 qualified for second run, and that included two skiers who made it in only after the disqualifications of Markus Larsson and Alexis Pinturault for straddling.
“As we’ve seen in Levi and in Val d’Isere, some later numbers did punch it in there,” noted Kasper. “Today, there were less than five guys who made it from outside the 30, so that shows that the snow conditions combined with the course set really favored running early and having a good start position.”
Norwegian Leif Kristian Haugen fought for his top-20 finish in 19th.
“It’s definitely tough and it doesn’t get better when you’re starting later. It gets worse after every racer,” said Haugen, who has tried to stay focused on each weekend of World Cup racing despite the Olympic year. “For me, the World Cup is the most important. For sure, the Olympics is fun, but I’m trying to take every race and use that as training to get better and become a better skier overall — taking it step by step. I’m not taking the giant steps yet, but it’s getting closer and closer.”
None of the six Canadians who started first run pulled off a result strong enough to qualify for the second.
See more pictures from today’s race in our gallery.
By Hank McKee
Men’s World Cup slalom, Bormio, Italy, Jan. 6
Equipment – Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
2 Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Moelgg, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
4 Yuasa, Hart/Dolomite/Look
5 Hargin, Nordica/Nordica/
6 Grange, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
7 Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
8 Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/
9 Myhrer, Nordica/Nordica/
10 Aerni, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
Men’s World Cup slalom, Bormio, Italy, Jan. 6 – make up race from Zagreb Jan. 6. … It is the 14th race of the men’s 34 race schedule. … The third of nine scheduled slaloms. It is the 55th World Cup race hosted (at least in part) at Bormio. … The 13th slalom and fourth for men. A rare Monday race.
It is the sixth career World Cup win for Felix Neureuther… five in slalom and one city event win. … He matches his father Christian for second all time among German men for slalom wins. … It is his first win of the season, and just his second top ten of the season.
It is the 51st career World Cup podium for Marcel Hirscher… his sixth of the season in seven completed races.
It is the 17th career World Cup podium for Manfred Moelgg. … It is his best finish and second top ten of the season.
David Chodounsky matches his third best career World Cup result. … It is his second scoring finish of the season. … It is the sixth scoring result, and second in slalom, for Ted Ligety this season.
Aksel Lund Svindal (did not race) maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 630-4325 over Hirscher. … Ted Ligety (27th in race) holds third with 329pts. … Erik Guay (did not race) is top Canadian in seventh with 261pts.
Mario Matt (13th race) holds the lead of the slalom standings 200-180 over Hirscher. … Mattias Hargin (fifth in race) sits third in the slalom standings with 170pts. … Chodounsky is top U.S. skier in slalom in 18th place with 52pts. … Michael Janyk (did not qualify for 2nd run) is top Canadian in 28th place with 21pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||FIS Points|
|19||30||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:02.07||59.81||2:01.88||11.03|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|78||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|51||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|