The Austrian men have yet to lose a race so far in 2019, and Vincent Kriechmayr kept the streak alive in Wengen after his first downhill win of the season on Saturday afternoon. Kriechmayr has sat on the edge of the downhill podium for a majority of the season. In Lake Louise, he finished fourth. In Beaver Creek and Bormio, he finished fifth. Wengen marked the day he was finally able to stand at the top, victorious.
“It’s the second toughest race after Kitzbuehl, and I’m really proud to be able to be on the podium,” said Kriechmayr. “I risked a lot and I also managed the important passages well. I’ve lost a lot of races just before the end, today I’ve managed to make amends down the track.”
Beat Feuz won the Wengen downhill last year, but fell to Kreichmayer in 2019 and took second place. After his Wengen win in 2018, the Swissman went on to win the 2018 downhill glove for the first tie in his career. He’s kept the good results so far in 2019 and currently is in possession of the red leader bib, but yet to find the top of the podium since Beaver Creek.
Although Feuz will walk away from Saturday without a win, his fans were not disappointed. They came by the thousands to cheer him on on home soil, swarming the finish and lining the fencing in rows. Feuz was met by thunderous roars as he sped through the finish him, but could only hang on to the lead for about five minutes until Kriechmayr pushed him out of the top spot by 0.14 seconds.
“Vincent had been at the top of my leaflet all season. With his technique, he is currently one, if not the best,” said Feuz. “He drove the important sections very well, and at the end that made his lead. I had a few passages that were not perfect. That’s why I’m only partially satisfied today. It was not great, but if it’s enough for the podium, I do not want to complain.”
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde performed better than expected in Wengen. In 2018, the Attacking Viking finished 17th, and in 2016, he finished 15th. In 2019, he broke onto the podium in third-place, knocking his teammate Aksel Lund Svindal into fourth.
“Today is one of those days where I don’t really have anything to say,” said Kilde. “I’m happy with third place. It was very nice to drive from top to bottom. In Wengen you are already tired when driving, but if it is enough for a podium, then you can enjoy it too. Axel I have to share a beer because I pushed him from third-place so we can be friends again (laughs)”.
The Lauberhorn track is the longest downhill the men’s circuit faces all season at 4,270 meters (14,009 feet) long. The men travel through narrow corridors, and under bridges to descend 1,028 meters (3,372.7 feet) to reach the finish. The bluebird skies were pristine, but icy snow conditions were not forgiving, and a few men ceded to the course, for the most part without injury. Kriechmayr’s time in the leader chair was stressful, filled with painful reactions as he watched his competition fall, followed by relief as they stood unharmed.
American Steven Nyman caught an edge and spun out, landing hard on his back. Austrian Max Franz had a similar issue, but spun out into the b-netting and emerged from his entanglement unharmed. Matthias Mayer had a near miss and slammed into the course sidewall, but kept himself upright.
Sixth place finisher, Italian Emanuele Buzzi made it through the finish line, but crashed into the padded corral, lodging his ski underneath of the fencing and had to be extracted by course workers and ski patrol. He was carried off in a stretcher, but not airlifted out of the venue. Further news of his injuries has yet to be reported.
Once again, Bryce Bennett led the Americans with a fifth-place finish. So far, 2018/19 has proven to be a breakthrough season for Bennett. He has repeatedly seized career-best finishes, getting stronger race by race. In the last two World Cup downhills he’s finished fourth, both times closing trailing Feuz. In Val Gardena, he trailed the Swiss man by 0.06 seconds, and in Bormio 0.15 seconds. Saturday’s results on the Lauberhorn was Bennett’s best performance on the track. If he can keep the speed in the next series, Bennett could be on the verge of his first ever podium.
“Another top five – that’s far beyond my expectations of the season, so I just have to keep focusing on the skiing aspect and not get too caught up on trying to win. But one of these days it’s going to come,” said Bennett. “Generally, I haven’t quite figured out Kitzbuehel yet. I have some learning to do, so hopefully this year I can maybe put a run together.”
Travis Ganong finished 24th, Jared Goldberg finished 30th, Ryan Cochran-Siegle finished 33rd, and Tommy Biesemeyer finished 44th. Wiley Maple did not finish alongside Nyman, but also recovered from his fall and arose uninjured.
On Sunday, January 20th, Wengen will switch gears and the men will compete in the slalom starting at 10:30 am CET. The speed tour will continue on to the infamous Streif track in Kitzbuehel, Austria from January 22nd-27th.
1. Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT): 2:28.36 – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
2. Beat Feuz (SUI): +0.14 – Head/Head/Head
3. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR): +0.26 – Head/Head/Head
4. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR): +0.52 – Head/Head/Head
5. Bryce Bennett (USA): +0.63 – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
6. Emanuele Buzzi (ITA): +0.80 – Head/Head/Head
7. Mauro Caviezel (SUI): +0.84 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8. Martin Cater (SLO): +0.92 – Stoeckli/Lange
10. Gilles Roulin (SUI): +1.26 – Head/Head/Head
For full FIS results, click here.