Revered by most and feared by some, the Stelvio Piste in Bormio, Italy, is known across the World Cup as one of — if not the most — demanding tracks on tour. Friday’s men’s downhill delivered on that expectation and saw a pair of home-crowd favorites in Dominik Paris and Christoph Innerhofer capture the top two positions when all was said and done. Paris seems to have the Bormio track dialed in as the big Italian also took the win in last year’s edition of the race, marking exactly 365 days since his last World Cup victory and his third career win on the legendary track after also winning in 2012.
When the men’s Tour rolled back into the Italian Dolomites after a well-deserved holiday break, the Stelvio was waiting for them with some of the most demanding conditions ever seen on the World Cup after warm temperatures and rain changed to cold weather and ice. With near hockey-rink quality ice and fast, dark, and bumpy terrain waiting for them, training got underway earlier this week with more than a few racers finding themselves in need of a wakeup call in order to shake off the holiday cobwebs.
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Always seeming to thrive when conditions get gnarly, Paris charged his way from top to bottom and relied on a particularly strong lower section of the course to pull ahead of his teammate, Innerhofer, by 0.36 seconds for the win. The Italian duo was joined on the podium by Switzerland’s Beat Feuz in third, 0.52 seconds off the pace.
Racing was halted after Slovenia’s Klemen Kosi, wearing bib 35, crashed hard approaching the finish, blasted through the safety netting, and was helicoptered off course. According to the Slovenian Ski Association, Kosi is alert and talking at the hospital in nearby Sondrio but is suffering from neck pain and face lacerations. In total, eight racers failed to finish on Friday.
“It feels amazing,” Paris shared. “It was a big dream to make a triple on this very difficult slope. Bormio is always very tough and not easy to ride on the bottom because it’s so bumpy and icy. I tried to push very hard and today I am the lucky one.”
“I like when it’s very difficult and icy,” he continued about the challenging conditions. “You need tactics also on the course and not just going straight down on the limit. Today, you had to make some tactics a little bit and you had to hold the line when it’s so bumpy. The bottom is always a challenge because the legs are burning and you have to fight to the finish.”
With his third victory in Bormio, Paris has now tied Austrian greats, Hermann Maier and Michael Walchhofer, for the most downhill wins on the Stelvio.
“Those two guys are the biggest in the downhill, so it’s an honor for me to join them,” he said.
After some blistering training runs, Innerhofer looked to have laid down a winning time after crossing the finish with a massive lead of over two seconds but was outfoxed by his teammate in the closing seconds of the race and was forced to settle for a runner-up finish. Bormio is a special place for the Italian with his first Wold Cup points coming at the venue as well as his first World Cup victory when he won the downhill back in 2008.
“I think the other guys would say that I am the World Champion of training,” Innerhofer said after the race. “Today I did a great run and I’m really happy with this second place, I can’t complain. It was a great feeling because my skiing was once again well and did some small mistakes but it’s not so easy with bib two because you don’t know if the track is faster or not.”
Feuz continued to pad his lead in the overall downhill standings with his third podium finish of the season. The Swiss reigning World Champion now leads the downhill standings by 38 points over Austria’s Max Franz, who finished in 12th, heading into 2019.
“This was one of the toughest courses I’ve been racing on in my career and my first thought in the finish was that I was just happy to be there,” Feuz said. “Now that I can celebrate a third-place finish, it’s even more satisfaction. I’m very happy about my season start and I can keep the red bib and it’s good to know that I am in the fight.”
The American Downhillers were led once again by rising star, Bryce Bennett, who matched his career-best finish from Val Gardena earlier in the month with another fourth-place finish. The six-foot-seven-inch Californian seems to have really found his groove this season and now carries some serious momentum into the classic swing of races in January that include Wengen and Kitzbuehel.
“I just kind of put it all out there and committed to the turn instead of sliding like I had been in training and it ended up alright,” Bennett said of his performance. “It was very unforgiving in those training runs and then last night it stayed a little bit warmer and it was a little bit more forgiving today. It turned out to be a pretty fun Bormio race but the first training run was not so much fun. I think men’s downhill skiing right now is very competitive and if you make a mistake, you’re not going to be in there. Limiting those mistakes and putting my foot on the gas pedal every single race is something I have to do now because otherwise I won’t be competitive.”
Following Bennett in the points was Steven Nyman in 17th and Jared Goldberg in 28th. Wiley Maple finished 40th and Sam Morese 49th. After some amazing training results, Ryan Cochran-Siegle unfortunately lost a ski early in his run and was unable to finish. Thomas Biesemeyer also crashed out early in his run and Travis Ganong crashed in Thursday’s training run and chose not to start.
The men now race super-G in Bormio on Saturday, Dec. 29. Racing gets underway at 11:45am local time.
- Dominik Paris (ITA)- Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Christoph Innerhofer (ITA)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Beat Feuz (SUI)- Head/Head/Head
- Bryce Bennett (USA)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Matthieu Bailet (FRA)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Matthias Mayer (AUT)- Head/Head/Head
- Johan Clarey (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)- Head/Head/Head
- Benjamin Thomsen (CAN)- Head/Head/Head
For complete FIS results, please click here.