“I physically would get sick to my stomach if I finished a race and knew I didn’t leave it all on the hill.”

Those words were spoken by American Downhiller legend Daron Rahlves to the current crop of American speedsters at the pre-race meeting on Friday night ahead of Saturday’s Birds of Prey downhill. The American Downhillers have been, in a word, lost thus far in a season that has seen the team fail to land a single skier inside the top 20 in either last week’s opening downhill in Lake Louise, Canada, or today in Beaver Creek.

“I think this is a big topic right now,” said Bryce Bennett, who led the American contingent for the second week in a row in 21st place. “I know our coaches are pretty involved with what’s going on, wondering where the results are, but we don’t have Steve (Nyman), you know? He’s a great team leader. I think everyone is capable of speed and I’m not really worried about it; I know a lot of people are, but once someone puts one down it’s going to be game on.”

Nyman, who is still recovering from a knee injury suffered in last January’s Garmisch downhill, has opted-out of the first races of the season in favor of forerunning and more training time before he kicks out of a World Cup start house for real. In a sport where results are individual, people are quick to forget how much a team’s dynamic can effect individual performances. With Nyman’s absence as team leader and seemingly no one willing to step up and fill his shoes on race day, American fans will have to wait and see if the hometown boys can rebound from their slow start.

Bennett has led the Americans in the last two World Cup downhills. Image Credit: GEPA pictures/ Daniel Goetzhaber

American disappointments aside, you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for a ski race with sunshine, mild temps, and bulletproof grippy Colorado ice with just the right amount of teeth-rattling chatter to make things interesting all parts of the day’s action.

With the bold decision to go with bib one, Norwegian living legend Aksel Lund Svindal set the early pace and managed to hold off all challengers to take his second Birds of Prey downhill in a row and become the first man since Austrian great Hermann Maier to go back-to-back in Beaver Creek. Thanks to a blazing middle section from Pumphouse down to the Screech Owl Jump that saw every racer lose time to the big Attacking Viking, nobody could touch Svindal on the lower part of the course.

“The secret was to get after it from the very top.” Svindal said of his performance. “I just had a good plan and it takes a little bit of courage to pick number one but I thought that could be a good number and went with it. I think I came out of the steep with a pretty good line so I was able to stay fairly high through Pumphouse and carry my speed, that and the last part I think were my best sections.”

Svindal’s winning time of 1:40.46 seconds was good enough to edge out second-place finisher Beat Feuz of Switzerland by a slim 0.15 seconds for the reigning World Champion’s second downhill podium in as many races to go with his win last week in Lake Louise.

The surprise at the top of the results came from Germany’s Thomas Dressen, who captured the nation’s first men’s downhill podium since 2004 with a third-place finish, 0.49 seconds off of Svindal’s pace.

“Right now it’s just an awesome feeling, it’s just great,” an elated Dressen said after the race. “Right now I’m a bit speechless because I never thought that this race could go so well for me. Since the last Olympics, a lot of things have changed in the German ski team, especially in the speed team. The main goal always was to get a podium, to achieve that right now was just a great feeling.”

Dressen gave Germany their first men’s downhill podium since 2004. Image Credit: Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom

Following Bennett for the Americans was Jared Goldberg and Travis Ganong, who finished in a tie for 30th place. Thomas Biesemeyer finished 39th, Wiley Maple 50th, Andrew Weibrecht 54th, and Sam Morse 57th to close out an American performance that by and large left a lot to be desired.

The good news for the American Downhillers is that the speed tour now moves to the Italian Dolomites and the iconic Saslong track in Val Gardena, which has a long history of breakthrough American performances. Bennett has been the lone bright spot in the opening two races of the season for the Americans and with a pair of impressive attack-from-the-back results the last two years down the Saslong, Bennet just might be the spark the Americans need to get their season back on track, especially since he is now working with Nyman’s longtime technician Leo Mussi.

“I think our entire crew just needs a little inspiration and I think Val Gardena is a good place for our entire team,” Bennett said. “I think as soon as someone puts a good result down it’s going to happen. Leo and I are building trust in each other and I feel confident in my abilities and my skiing so I’ll just keep trying to build on that.”

“I don’t want us to be satisfied with mediocre performances,” summed up head speed coach Johno McBride on Friday night. “I want you to hold yourself accountable. I know I am … What’s done is done. The milk is spilled. Clean it up and move forward.”

Racing action continues in Beaver Creek on Sunday with the men’s giant slalom.

Fans can stay up to date on World Cup by  downloading the U.S. Ski Team – Ski Racing app for iOS and Android.


Top 10

  1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
  2. Beat Feuz (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
  3. Thomas Dressen (GER) – Rossignol/Lange/Look
  4. Christof Innerhofer (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
  5. Dominik Paris (ITA) – Nordica/Nordica/Marker
  6. Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
  7. Andreas Sander (GER) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  8. Adrien Theaux (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
  9. Johan Clarey (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
  10. Peter Fill (ITA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

Official Results

Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Total Time Diff. FIS Points WC Points
 1  1  421328 SVINDAL Aksel Lund 1982 NOR  1:40.46  0.00  100.00
 2  3  511383 FEUZ Beat 1987 SUI  1:40.61  +0.15  1.87  80.00
 3  10  202535 DRESSEN Thomas 1993 GER  1:40.95  +0.49  6.10  60.00
 4  27  293006 INNERHOFER Christof 1984 ITA  1:41.00  +0.54  6.72  50.00
 5  9  291459 PARIS Dominik 1989 ITA  1:41.07  +0.61  7.59  45.00
 6  8  53980 KRIECHMAYR Vincent 1991 AUT  1:41.17  +0.71  8.83  40.00
 7  12  200379 SANDER Andreas 1989 GER  1:41.20  +0.74  9.21  36.00
 8  13  192746 THEAUX Adrien 1984 FRA  1:41.26  +0.80  9.95  32.00
 9  16  191740 CLAREY Johan 1981 FRA  1:41.42  +0.96  11.95  29.00
 10  5  292455 FILL Peter 1982 ITA  1:41.47  +1.01  12.57  26.00
 11  7  421483 JANSRUD Kjetil 1985 NOR  1:41.51  +1.05  13.06  24.00
 12  11  53902 MAYER Matthias 1990 AUT  1:41.59  +1.13  14.06  22.00
 13  23  511513 CAVIEZEL Mauro 1988 SUI  1:41.64  +1.18  14.68  20.00
 14  19  422139 KILDE Aleksander Aamodt 1992 NOR  1:41.72  +1.26  15.68  18.00
 15  6  102899 OSBORNE-PARADIS Manuel 1984 CAN  1:41.73  +1.27  15.80  16.00
 16  2  53817 FRANZ Max 1989 AUT  1:41.81  +1.35  16.80  15.00
 17  22  194190 ROGER Brice 1990 FRA  1:41.90  +1.44  17.92  14.00
 18  20  192932 FAYED Guillermo 1985 FRA  1:41.95  +1.49  18.54  13.00
 19  35  422310 SEJERSTED Adrian Smiseth 1994 NOR  1:42.06  +1.60  19.91  12.00
 20  40  194368 RAFFORT Nicolas 1991 FRA  1:42.08  +1.62  20.16  11.00
 21  24  6530104 BENNETT Bryce 1992 USA  1:42.11  +1.65  20.53  10.00
 22  17  50742 REICHELT Hannes 1980 AUT  1:42.19  +1.73  21.53  9.00
 23  37  104096 THOMPSON Broderick 1994 CAN  1:42.20  +1.74  21.65  8.00
 24  33  53981 KROELL Johannes 1991 AUT  1:42.22  +1.76  21.90  7.00
 25  44  422120 SAUGESTAD Stian 1992 NOR  1:42.30  +1.84  22.89  6.00
 26  63  180570 ROMAR Andreas 1989 FIN  1:42.31  +1.85  23.02  5.00
 26  25  202059 FERSTL Josef 1988 GER  1:42.31  +1.85  23.02  5.00
 28  31  512039 ROULIN Gilles 1994 SUI  1:42.43  +1.97  24.51  3.00
 29  39  511529 GISIN Marc 1988 SUI  1:42.48  +2.02  25.13  2.00
 30  28  934643 GOLDBERG Jared 1991 USA  1:42.55  +2.09  26.01  1.00
 30  14  530874 GANONG Travis 1988 USA  1:42.55  +2.09  26.01  1.00
 32  18  51215 BAUMANN Romed 1986 AUT  1:42.57  +2.11  26.25
 33  45  512042 KRYENBUEHL Urs 1994 SUI  1:42.79  +2.33  28.99
 34  41  512031 BARANDUN Gian Luca 1994 SUI  1:42.81  +2.35  29.24
 34  30  194167 MUZATON Maxence 1990 FRA  1:42.81  +2.35  29.24
 36  4  511139 KUENG Patrick 1984 SUI  1:42.92  +2.46  30.61
 37  50  202345 SCHWAIGER Dominik 1991 GER  1:42.96  +2.50  31.11
 38  34  561217 KOSI Klemen 1991 SLO  1:43.07  +2.61  32.48
 39  26  531452 BIESEMEYER Thomas 1989 USA  1:43.10  +2.64  32.85
 40  51  511981 WEBER Ralph 1993 SUI  1:43.12  +2.66  33.10
 41  68  194858 ALLEGRE Nils 1994 FRA  1:43.18  +2.72  33.84
 42  46  6290985 BUZZI Emanuele 1994 ITA  1:43.19  +2.73  33.97
 43  36  53933 SCHWEIGER Patrick 1990 AUT  1:43.24  +2.78  34.59
 44  58  103271 THOMSEN Benjamin 1987 CAN  1:43.33  +2.87  35.71
 45  32  561255 CATER Martin 1992 SLO  1:43.36  +2.90  36.08
 46  21  54009 WALDER Christian 1991 AUT  1:43.39  +2.93  36.46
 47  29  511847 MANI Nils 1992 SUI  1:43.42  +2.96  36.83
 48  15  561216 KLINE Bostjan 1991 SLO  1:43.53  +3.07  38.20
 49  53  292514 HEEL Werner 1982 ITA  1:43.63  +3.17  39.44
 50  49  930024 MAPLE Wiley 1990 USA  1:43.65  +3.19  39.69
 51  54  293550 MARSAGLIA Matteo 1985 ITA  1:43.73  +3.27  40.69
 52  48  54005 STRIEDINGER Otmar 1991 AUT  1:43.86  +3.40  42.31
 53  67  104531 CRAWFORD James 1997 CAN  1:43.87  +3.41  42.43
 54  60  530939 WEIBRECHT Andrew 1986 USA  1:43.89  +3.43  42.68
 55  62  110324 VON APPEN Henrik 1994 CHI  1:43.90  +3.44  42.80
 56  59  170131 FAARUP Christoffer 1992 DEN  1:43.91  +3.45  42.93
 57  52  6531520 MORSE Sam 1996 USA  1:44.03  +3.57  44.42
 58  38  54157 DANKLMAIER Daniel 1993 AUT  1:44.06  +3.60  44.79
 59  43  512038 ROGENTIN Stefan 1994 SUI  1:44.07  +3.61  44.92
 60  55  6290845 BOSCA Guglielmo 1993 ITA  1:44.19  +3.73  46.41
 61  47  380292 ZRNCIC DIM Natko 1986 CRO  1:44.30  +3.84  47.78
 62  65  6291029 BATTILANI Henri 1994 ITA  1:44.45  +3.99  49.65
 63  61  561310 HROBAT Miha 1995 SLO  1:44.62  +4.16  51.76
 64  69  561214 DEBELAK Tilen 1991 SLO  1:44.90  +4.44  55.25
 65  57  501987 MONSEN Felix 1994 SWE  1:44.91  +4.45  55.37
 66  42  103762 WERRY Tyler 1991 CAN  1:45.12  +4.66  57.98
 67  70  303758 SUGAI Ryo 1991 JPN  1:45.25  +4.79  59.60
 68  64  20324 OLIVERAS Marc 1991 AND  1:45.27  +4.81  59.85
 69  71  460071 ACHIRILOAIE Ioan Valeriu 1990 ROU  1:47.22  +6.76  84.11
Did not finish 1st run
 56  6190176 BAILET Matthieu 1996 FRA
Did not start 1st run
 66  6530319 COCHRAN-SIEGLE Ryan 1992 USA
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Sean Higgins
Senior Editor
- A Lake Tahoe native and University of Vermont graduate, Higgins was a member of the Catamounts' 2012 NCAA title winning squad and earned first team All-American honors in 2013. Prior to coming to Ski Racing Media, he coached U14s for the Squaw Valley Ski Team.
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