In wake of the Cortina Finals cancellation, Kvitfjell, Norway marks the final stop of the 2019/20 men’s speed circuit and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde’s last big shot at securing the overall title over technical specialists, Alexis Pinturault and Henrik Kristoffersen. Headed into the final downhill of the season, the tensions were high. Kilde sat just 26 points behind Pinturault, who opted to start in the downhill in hopes of scoring any points he could prior to Sunday’s super G. Pinturault has three races left before his season is over, Kilde has two (unless he chooses to start in the Kranjska Gora slalom). But given Kilde’s success in the speed events, and home soil advantage, any points count in Pinturault’s eyes.
By the end of the race, Pinturault finished outside of the 30, and walked away with a training run for Sunday’s super G. Kilde, on the other hand, was just barely pushed out of first position by Austria’s Matthias Mayer. He finished second, 0.14 seconds from a win. Although not a win, second place is big for Kilde. Not only did it push him ahead of Pinturault in the overall standings by 54 points, but it also marked his first podium at the venue. The 27-year-old Norwegian rode into the weekend on a wave of confidence, having won both downhill training runs. Now he carries that confidence into Sunday’s super G, as he looks to further separate himself from Pinturault and Kristoffersen. It’s his first time in contention for the overall title, and for now, he just wants to enjoy the ride.
“In total, I’m just really happy with my skiing these days and having a good time enjoying Norwegian snow and winter up here in Norway,” said Kilde. “I had another second-place finish in Garmisch but then the rest has been a little up and down. In general, I’ve been so stable. I’m really looking forward to working hard and fighting for the big globe in [Sunday’s] super G.”
For Mayer, the day’s winner, it had been five years since an Austrian man has won multiple downhill races in one season. Mayer’s first win of the season on home soil Kitzbuehel was huge. Not only was he able to hold off overall crystal globe winner, Beat Feuz, but he was also able to conquer the Hahnenkahm, notoriously known on the World Cup as the gnarliest downhill course any man can ski. His win in Kvitfjell may not have been met with as many thunderous cheers, but it’s just as important to the Austrian to end the season on a strong note.
“To win the last race of the season is always good, it gives me a little bit more motivation for next year,” said Mayer. “After a tough and long season, it’s always good to be in the top three in the season ranking.”
Mayer ended the season ranked third in the overall downhill standings. In the Kvitfjell finish, he stood on the podium twice, once on the top step, then on the third, alongside Feuz and Germany’s Thomas Dressen. Feuz pushed out of the start in Norway having already clinched the downhill title, the third of his career. Although disappointed to have not had a final race in Cortina at World Finals, Feuz’s crystal globe ceremony in Kvitfjell was fitting, as it was the site of his first-ever downhill win on the World Cup back in 2011.
Feuz has been so dominant in the downhill that alpine analysts had a hard time envisioning him not on the top step of the standings by the end of the season. The more pleasant surprise would have to be Dressen’s second-place finish in the downhill standings, after coming back from a grueling injury that knocked him out of the World Cup early on last season. Last weekend in Hinterstoder, Dressen subluxed both of his shoulders during the downhill, yet somehow still pushed out of the start house on Saturday with the fastest split of the day.
Team USA’s Travis Ganong had another great finish in fifth, 0.55 seconds off of Mayer’s winning time, two tenths off of a podium finish. Since Ganong suffered a knee injury during the 2017/18 season, he has not been back on the podium, and he’s hungry for it. In Kvitfjell, a higher line on a few key sections seemed to the deciding factor between fifth-place and a podium finish, but Ganong is still satisfied. The sunshine, and hard, fast snow catered to the American’s style and skiing preferences, and the track in Kvitfjell is what he describes as more “relaxed” in comparison to other tracks on the tour, one where the athletes can put their head down, charge, and look for speed.
“I have a really good feeling on that kind of surface, so it allowed all of us today to really push as hard as we wanted to, we didn’t have to hold back based on the conditions and the last few races have been pretty shitty like that,” said Ganong. “We’ve had to adjust our skiing for the conditions but today we could do whatever we wanted.”
Canadian Cameron Alexander had a career-best finish in Kvitfjell. The 22-year-old started his first World Cup in Lake Louise in December and since has been on a steady rise, scoring points in Wengen, Kitzbuehel, and Garmisch despite starting in the 30s and 40s. After a decent result on the Europa Cup earlier in the week, and two top 10 training runs, Alexander put together his best run of the season on Saturday, finishing 10th overall, punching it in from bib 40.
On Sunday, the men’s speed tour will compete for the final time this season in the super G, beginning at 5:30 am EST. The race will be available for viewing on the Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold.
- Matthias Mayer (AUT): 1:48.02
- Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR): +0.14
- Carlo Janka (SUI): +0.37
- Beat Feuz (SUI): +0.43
- Travis Ganong (USA): +0.55
- Kjetil Jansrud (NOR): +0.83
- Mauro Caviezel (SUI): +0.91
- Thomas Dressen (GER): +0.95
- Nicolas Raffort (FRA): +1.13
- Maxence Muzaton (FRA): +1.25
For full FIS results, click here.