Svindal Reigns, Americans Show Promise in Val Gardena
The downhill in Val Gardena, Italy is truly something special. High speeds, big jumps, and enough terrain to get motion sickness just watching are just some of the reasons why the Saslong is one of the most loved tracks by racers and fans alike on the World Cup.
In stark contrast to Friday’s super-G, Saturday’s downhill race took place under ideal conditions with the previous day’s fog giving way to bluebird skies and cold temperatures overnight.
Norwegian legend, Aksel Lund Svindal, dominated the field en-route to his second downhill win in a row after taking the victory in Beaver Creek earlier this month. It was a relatively close race until Svindal took to the course. The Attacking Viking blew the doors off of the competition, setting split times that were unheard of at that point in the race. Crossing the finish with well over a second lead, it was up to the rest of the field to catch up.
“It was a good run, does it ever get perfect? Probably not,” Svindal said. “Today I felt good. I did not feel good in the beginning of the week. The travels back to Europe were not so good for me so I couldn’t do much in the last 10 days. I didn’t feel so confident in the beginning of this week but I was building confidence every day.”
Fellow Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud was the only skier who could best Svindal’s pace on the upper sections of the course before gradually losing time through the infamous Ciaslat meadow and ultimately crossed the finish 0.59 seconds back, good enough for second place overall. Austria’s Max Franz also claimed his second podium in as many days, finishing in third place, 0.85 seconds off of Svindal’s blistering pace.
Jansrud now has four downhill podiums in Val Gardena without a win, a record for the venue. Even though he would have liked to walk away with the victory on Saturday, Jansrud still took positives away from his performance.
“This is definitely one of my favorite slopes,” said Jansrud. “I think it’s one of the few races on tour that has a very nice flow to it so there’s not so much nervousness in the start so you can enjoy it. It’s a tough downhill, a lot of jumps, but I like jumps and it’s one of the cooler places to ski. Lots of podiums, no win in downhill yet but there’s more years to come.”
It was a day of highs and lows for the American Downhillers with a pair of young talents stealing the spotlight from the more veteran racers as Jared Goldberg and Bryce Bennet turned in impressive runs, finishing 1.18 and 1.24 seconds back in ninth and 11th place, respectively. Goldberg’s previous best World Cup finish was an 11th place in the 2014 Kitzbuehel combined and he was riding high after winning the opening training run on Wednesday.
“I was pushing the line and telling myself, ‘Don’t do that. Don’t be an idiot. Just get back to the regular line,'” Goldberg shared in the finish. “I’ve been training with a lot of these top guys in Copper (Colorado) and have been ahead of them … so I knew that my speed was there, it was just a mater of staying calm and staying loose over the terrain. I think I’ve just gotten more comfortable on this hill.”
Bennett also has a history of strong finishes in Val Gardena, having finished in sixth and eighth place from way back in the pack the previous two years. Bennet hasn’t finished worse than 21st in World Cup downhill this season and said that focussing on the process and not the outcome has been key for him this year.
“I knew that if I could have a fast top section I could be in there,” he said. “My skis were running, I just have to figure out a couple things up there. This track is unique for me because it’s in my wheelhouse but I’m skiing well. I have process goals set in place this season of where I wanted my skiing to be, the strengths in my skiing and the weaknesses in my skiing and where I needed to address those and optimize all of that. I’m happy where it’s at and just have to keep going.”
Team leader Steven Nyman also made his much anticipated return to World Cup racing after choosing to either only participate in training runs or forerun in the first two downhills of the season in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek. Nyman is no stranger to Val Garena as all three of his wins have come at the Italian venue, making the Saslong an ideal place for his comeback. Despite finishing over two seconds back in a tie for 41st with fellow American Wiley Maple, who is also making a return from injury, Nyman had no real expectations for the weekend and was glad to just get back in the starting gate after an 11-month absence. Nyman also announced that he will be taking time off and focusing on the races in Wengen, Switzerland, in January.
“I’m just not confident and flowing and going,” he explained. “I had some fast splits but had some really bad splits, too. It’s ok, there’s some positives and right now I’m focusing on Wengen and just taking a good block off until then to get some training, get that confidence back, get those movements back, and dial equipment in. There’s a ton of different pieces that I have to figure out but it’s always great to race here and great to be back racing and it’s awesome to come through the finish line once again.”
After Goldberg and Bennet, the next American finisher was Travis Ganong in 39th with Maple and Nyman in 41st. Thomas Biesemeyer rounded out the American finishers in 43rd.
The men’s tour now heads to Alta Badia, Italy, for giant slalom and parallel racing Dec. 17-18.
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
2. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
3. Max Franz (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Gilles Roulin (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
5. Christof Innerhofer (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
6. Romed Baumann (AUT) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6. Dominik Paris (ITA) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
8. Beat Feuz (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
9. Jared Goldberg (USA) – Head/Head/Head
10. Mauro Caviezel (SUI) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|1||13||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:57.00||0.00||100.00|
|18||3||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||1:58.74||+1.74||18.59||13.00|
|20||46||512031||BARANDUN Gian Luca||1994||SUI||1:58.86||+1.86||19.87||11.00|
|33||63||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||1:59.25||+2.25||24.04|
|35||39||422310||SEJERSTED Adrian Smiseth||1994||NOR||1:59.31||+2.31||24.68|
|64||51||380292||ZRNCIC DIM Natko||1986||CRO||2:01.11||+4.11||43.91|
|Did not finish 1st run|