Val Gardena, Italy, is a special place for Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. The Norwegian superstar competed in his first World Cup speed races at the venue way back in 2002 and the track nestled in the Italian Dolomites has held a special place in his heart ever since. On Friday, Svindal took his seventh career World Cup victory at the venue, winning the super-G ahead of Italy’s Christof Innerhofer and Norwegian teammate, Kjetil Jansrud. Five of Svindal’s seven Val Gardena wins have come in super-G.
With last season’s Val Gardena super-G having to be abandoned after only 38 racers due to fog, Friday’s race couldn’t have been much more different. It was a postcard-perfect day in the Dolomites with sunshine and clear skies lasting throughout the field. Known as one of the darkest tracks on tour, Val Gardena’s primarily North facing, tree-lined slope combined with the imposing scenery casting shadows across most of the track throughout the day, good weather is a welcome sight for competitors when it’s race day on the Saslong.
Svindal took to the course with bib 13 and managed to squeak ahead of Innerhofer’s impressive time by only 0.05 seconds. A relatively open set and slower than normal snow made over-skiing easy and risk taking a must. Svindal managed to find the perfect balance en route to World Cup win number 36. Jansrud joined Svindal on the podium in third place, 0.27 seconds back.
“That was a good race and a good feeling, of course,” Svindal said after the race. “I had good momentum in the beginning of the season but winning feels better than third place. I was happy with that too but winning is something special.”
Friday was Svindal’s first win of the season after suffering a broken hand in training last month in Copper Mountain, Colorado. After surgery, the Norwegian has been forced to tape his hand to his pole and alter his start to accommodate for the injury. In Friday’s super-G, Svindal looked like his old self.
“I think Innerhofer had a really good run and I saw Jansrud’s run and he came in over two-tenths out with almost a perfect run so I knew it was a day where you had to attack hard and get away with it without any mistakes,” he added. “I felt like I was right on the limit, exactly where I wanted to be and crossing the finish line, looking for the leaderboard, I was hoping it was fast but you never really know and it’s always good when you see the green light.”
Running with bib six, Innerhofer looked to have blown the lid off the field with his run, crossing the line with a comfortable advantage of a full second over his competitors. Jansrud was the only racer within a whiff of the Italian before Svindal managed to sneak ahead for the win.
“My super-G season has not been so easy, so at the start today I was a little bit nervous,” said Innerhofer. “This summer, I was skiing better in super-G than in downhill but when you don’t get the results that means nothing. I was angry with how the races in Beaver Creek went so I said, ‘Today, you risk it all.’ I made a good run and I’m happy. I never thought if my run was enough to win, what’s important is to ski well and the good results will come along. For sure, it was amazing to cross the finish line and see all the people cheering for me so without watching the time I knew I did well.”
Friday’s conditions made it hard to pinpoint just who was fast and who was not based purely on skiing; this was perhaps the most true for Jansrud, who looked powerful and on the edge throughout his run. The Norwegian let it all hang out and crossed the line with some surprise to not see a green light next to his name but was nonetheless content with another super-G podium to his name.
“It’s always great, the way it’s supposed to be, I guess,” Jansrud said of the Norwegian performance. “I’m happy for Aksel, he’s back in super-G, winning, and I’m happy to be on the podium. I had a good run and some days you win and some days you’ll have to see other guys winning, but still, being on the podium is a privilege. There were a few minor things to adjust that could have been better but that’s the way with ski racing, there’s no such thing as a perfect run. There will always be things that you can improve and I think there’s no reason to look back and I’m looking forward to tomorrow in the downhill and I have to be happy with today.”
The Americans for sure had higher hopes on Friday as a downhiller-friendly set played right into the hands of many of the American starters. At the end of the day, Squaw Valley’s Travis Ganong led the way in 24th place, followed by Steven Nyman in 26th, Ryan Cochran-Siegle in 29th, Thomas Biesemeyer in 40th, Bryce Bennett in 44th, Jared Goldberg in 46th, Wiley Maple in 51st, and Sam Morse in 58th.
“I’d say there was some good skiing but I over-skied a couple of sections that just cost me quite a bit of time,” explained Cochran-Siegle. “The snow was really good and the terrain was fun to ski. The weather shaped up to be really nice so It’s always nice racing on a day like today. It was enjoyable to ski but it’s always nice to be a little bit faster.”
Racing in Val Gardena continues on Saturday with the men’s downhill. Action is scheduled to get underway at 11:45am CET.
- Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)- Head/Head/Head
- Christof Innerhofer (ITA)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Kjetil Jansrud (NOR)- Head/Head/Head
- Johan Clarey (FRA)- Head/Head/Head
- Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)- Head/Head/Head
- Josef Ferstl (GER)- Head/Head/Head
- Matthias Mayer (AUT)- Head/Head/Head
- Adrian Smiseth Sejersted (NOR)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Hannes Reichelt (AUT)- Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Andreas Sander (GER)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
For complete FIS results, please click here.