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The scoop on zany Zagreb: two American perspectives

The scoop on zany Zagreb: two American perspectives{mosimage}On Thursday night, a women’s World Cup slalom race will take place at the Sljeme ski area outside Zagreb, Croatia. Hoping to capitalize on the massive public appeal of ski racing generated in this country by the success of Janica Kostelic and her brother Ivica, the FIS awarded Croatia its first World Cup last season.

The race features big purses. Big crowds. And some of the best organizing (and biggest budgets) on the circuit. Ski Racing’s Nathaniel Vinton caught up with two Americans experiencing zany Zagreb for the second time.

Trevor Wagner, head coach, U.S. women’s tech team
It’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before. Last year ,we were training beforehand in Innerkrems, Austria, and we got up and were told, ‘There’s going to be a police escort,’ and we’re thinking this is pretty wild. Everybody gets in their vehicles in the parking lot and leaves at the same time. You’re in a pretty big city, driving down the middle of the road. There are police at every single street stopping traffic, and you look down each side and there’s quite a bit of traffic backed up.

You drive to the top of the hill, you walk out, and you walk down a couple hundred meters, there’s training courses, the start. Dusk, amazing sunset. They were talking on the radio about a ton of people, and I didn’t really see it. It’s flat out of the start, and it goes a few gates and then drops over the pitch and both sides of the hill are packed with people. It’s insane. It’s like Schladming for the women, but inspection hasn’t even started. People are going crazy. It was super cool. It went by so fast. You go down there, and then boom, the next day you race and then to the next one.
Resi Stiegler, U.S. Ski Team racer
Oh my God it was amazing. First when we got there, my first love for a big race like that, was we started at the Westin, like an American hotel, big comforters, big pillows, we each had our own room. It was a cool thing that they would let the whole race stay in the Westin.

The next day was the race, so we didn’t get to see much of the town, but we could walk around a little … bib draw … Julia [Mancuso] and I walked around the street … kind of like Maribor in that way. Zagreb’s a little more nuts. We got an entourage to the mountain, which is right in the middle of the city: 15 miles and they shut down the whole road for us. Everyone had to leave the same time.

We got there, and it was like, wait, there’s no snow. It was quite beautiful. A 10-gate training course on the worst snow. You’re excited to be there, but you’re trying to chill out and focus. For me I like to freeski to calm myself down. You go over the first knoll, and there are people everywhere. I have never seen a crowd like that. I’m sure they would have been start to finish if they’d been allowed to. It was so loud, I laughed all the way through inspection, because I wanted to focus, but it was hard. It pumps you up.

Read a race preview here.

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