Although skies were blue on Saturday for the men’s downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, the sun just wouldn’t come out and play for the 64 racers who took to the course. Though much of the track was cast in shadow, Austrian Max Franz stunned the crowd en route to his first career World Cup win. Franz took the victory with a total time of 1:56.60 seconds, barely edging out Norwegian superstar Aksel Lund Svindal by 0.04 seconds. American Steven Nyman made his much anticipated return to the World Cup podium in third, 0.41 seconds off the pace.

Running early on with bib five, Svindal took to the course and looked to be well on his way to his first World Cup win since tearing his ACL at last season’s Kitzbuehel downhill. The Attacking Viking laid down some impressive split times and had a near flawless run save for a slight line miscalculation in the Ciaslat section of the course that would prove to be the deciding factor when all was said and done.

VAL GARDENA, ITALY - DECEMBER 17: Steven Nyman of USA competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Downhill on December 17, 2016 in Val Gardena, Italy (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom)

Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom

Svindal held a commanding lead for racer after racer until Nyman kicked out of the start with bib 15. The tall American Downhiller — a three-time winner in Val Gardena — challenged Svindal at each interval and even held a slim lead at the last time check before crossing the line in second place. Things calmed down some for several racers until the 27-year-old Franz took on the Saslong.

Just when fans thought that the podium had been decided, the Austrian was suddenly testing Svindal’s seemingly untouchable pace and the crowd erupted in cheers as Franz crossed the line with a razor-slim 0.04 second lead. Taking his hat off in appreciation, Svindal knew that the Austrian had done something special.

After watching many racers lose time to Svindal on the bottom, Franz knew he had to nail the middle Ciaslat section if he was going to carry speed into the finish and challenge for the win.

“First victory is really awesome in Groeden,” he said. “I felt really well in the first and second training, and today the feeling was pretty good. The chance to win was there, and I took it. Really happy.”

After yesterday’s disappointing DNF, Svindal was eager to show he still has the speed to challenge for the win in downhill. After admitting he took too much risk in the super-G, he decided to focus on good technical skiing for the downhill.

“It’s a little bit different this year to be at the start because I haven’t skied so much, so it’s not an automatic,” Svindal said. “Normally, you know what you’re supposed to do, the technique is easy to ski completely correct, but that’s a little different this year. I’m an old guy now. I’m experienced, so I can come in with just a little bit of training and get away with coming into the season and still be fast.”

Nyman had a brief heart-attack moment over the infamous Camels Hump as he found himself in the backseat and windmilling to stay in balance as he soared through the air. Thankfully, after a quick recovery the American managed to rebound and find himself on yet another World Cup downhill podium.

“I went off the Kamelbuckel a little back, which made me roll down the windows and gave me a good scare,” he said in the finish.”I skied really well. I was in the lead on the last split, but I burned my skis really bad so I could feel them on this last drag down bottom and they were just grabbing and I was like, ‘I’m not moving like I should be moving right now,’ which is a bummer. I’m really happy with the performance. To know I can ski at the top is really, really good and I want to cary that into Caterina.”

VAL GARDENA, ITALY - DECEMBER 17: Bryce Bennett of USA celebrates during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Downhill on December 17, 2016 in Val Gardena, Italy (Photo by Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom)

Photo by Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom

The rest of the American Downhillers managed to bounce back after a tough super-G outing on Friday and managed to land two other racers in the top-10 with Travis Ganong in seventh and Bryce Bennett repeating his impressive attack-from-the-back performance from last season’s race, finishing in eighth place from bib 54. Jared Goldberg finished in 29th, Andrew Weibrecht in 34th, and Thomas Biesemeyer in 43rd.

“I had some good training runs and I haven’t ever experienced that in my career,” Bennett said. “I was pretty nervous today. My mind was in a lot of places, but I was able to calm it down about four people before I went. I just went and skied and had a good time. I really enjoy this track. It’s incredibly prepared, and the terrain suits my style, so I just like to have fun with it.”

The men now head to Alta Badia, Italy for a giant slalom and parallel GS on the Gran Risa slope on Sunday and Monday.

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. Max Franz (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  2. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
  3. Steven Nyman (USA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
  4. Adrien Theaux (FRA) – Head/Head/Head
  5. Erik Guay (CAN) – Head/Head/Head
  6. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  7. Travis Ganong (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  8. Bryce Bennett (USA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
  9. Nils Mani (SUI) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
  10. Guillermo Fayed (FRA) – Head/Head/Head

Official Results

Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Total Time Diff. FIS Points
 1  26  53817 FRANZ Max 1989 AUT  1:56.60  0.00
 2  5  421328 SVINDAL Aksel Lund 1982 NOR  1:56.64  +0.04  0.43
 3  15  533866 NYMAN Steven 1982 USA  1:57.01  +0.41  4.40
 4  13  192746 THEAUX Adrien 1984 FRA  1:57.04  +0.44  4.72
 5  18  102263 GUAY Erik 1981 CAN  1:57.16  +0.56  6.00
 6  10  422139 KILDE Aleksander Aamodt 1992 NOR  1:57.21  +0.61  6.54
 7  6  530874 GANONG Travis 1988 USA  1:57.22  +0.62  6.65
 8  54  6530104 BENNETT Bryce 1992 USA  1:57.23  +0.63  6.75
 9  56  511847 MANI Nils 1992 SUI  1:57.25  +0.65  6.97
 10  17  192932 FAYED Guillermo 1985 FRA  1:57.33  +0.73  7.83
 11  12  51215 BAUMANN Romed 1986 AUT  1:57.34  +0.74  7.93
 12  7  421483 JANSRUD Kjetil 1985 NOR  1:57.35  +0.75  8.04
 13  8  293006 INNERHOFER Christof 1984 ITA  1:57.37  +0.77  8.25
 14  4  511139 KUENG Patrick 1984 SUI  1:57.47  +0.87  9.33
 14  3  511383 FEUZ Beat 1987 SUI  1:57.47  +0.87  9.33
 16  23  50753 KROELL Klaus 1980 AUT  1:57.48  +0.88  9.43
 17  28  102899 OSBORNE-PARADIS Manuel 1984 CAN  1:57.53  +0.93  9.97
 17  19  50742 REICHELT Hannes 1980 AUT  1:57.53  +0.93  9.97
 17  14  53902 MAYER Matthias 1990 AUT  1:57.53  +0.93  9.97
 20  1  511313 JANKA Carlo 1986 SUI  1:57.66  +1.06  11.36
 21  16  191740 CLAREY Johan 1981 FRA  1:57.78  +1.18  12.65
 22  9  292455 FILL Peter 1982 ITA  1:57.83  +1.23  13.19
 23  31  194190 ROGER Brice 1990 FRA  1:57.85  +1.25  13.40
 24  36  194368 RAFFORT Nicolas 1991 FRA  1:57.89  +1.29  13.83
 25  11  291459 PARIS Dominik 1989 ITA  1:57.91  +1.31  14.04
 26  52  202535 DRESSEN Thomas 1993 GER  1:57.99  +1.39  14.90
 27  29  53980 KRIECHMAYR Vincent 1991 AUT  1:58.00  +1.40  15.01
 28  42  511513 CAVIEZEL Mauro 1988 SUI  1:58.08  +1.48  15.87
 29  53  934643 GOLDBERG Jared 1991 USA  1:58.09  +1.49  15.97
 30  24  990081 CASSE Mattia 1990 ITA  1:58.17  +1.57  16.83
 31  32  202059 FERSTL Josef 1988 GER  1:58.27  +1.67  17.90
 32  58  292514 HEEL Werner 1982 ITA  1:58.32  +1.72  18.44
 33  21  200379 SANDER Andreas 1989 GER  1:58.34  +1.74  18.65
 34  30  530939 WEIBRECHT Andrew 1986 USA  1:58.38  +1.78  19.08
 35  44  512124 HINTERMANN Niels 1995 SUI  1:58.40  +1.80  19.30
 36  37  54009 WALDER Christian 1991 AUT  1:58.43  +1.83  19.62
 37  33  6290985 BUZZI Emanuele 1994 ITA  1:58.44  +1.84  19.73
 38  2  194542 GIRAUD MOINE Valentin 1992 FRA  1:58.51  +1.91  20.48
 39  27  194298 GIEZENDANNER Blaise 1991 FRA  1:58.63  +2.03  21.76
 39  20  561216 KLINE Bostjan 1991 SLO  1:58.63  +2.03  21.76
 41  45  512042 KRYENBUEHL Urs 1994 SUI  1:58.70  +2.10  22.51
 42  40  560447 SPORN Andrej 1981 SLO  1:58.72  +2.12  22.73
 43  50  531452 BIESEMEYER Thomas 1989 USA  1:58.73  +2.13  22.83
 44  35  53968 BERTHOLD Frederic 1991 AUT  1:58.79  +2.19  23.48
 45  46  194167 MUZATON Maxence 1990 FRA  1:58.90  +2.30  24.66
 46  25  191964 POISSON David 1982 FRA  1:58.92  +2.32  24.87
 47  57  110324 VON APPEN Henrik 1994 CHI  1:58.95  +2.35  25.19
 48  34  511981 WEBER Ralph 1993 SUI  1:59.12  +2.52  27.02
 49  22  54005 STRIEDINGER Otmar 1991 AUT  1:59.18  +2.58  27.66
 50  59  6291029 BATTILANI Henri 1994 ITA  1:59.26  +2.66  28.52
 51  43  561217 KOSI Klemen 1991 SLO  1:59.42  +2.82  30.23
 52  47  561067 PERKO Rok 1985 SLO  1:59.82  +3.22  34.52
 53  41  51327 PUCHNER Joachim 1987 AUT  2:00.05  +3.45  36.99
 54  51  180570 ROMAR Andreas 1989 FIN  2:00.17  +3.57  38.27
 55  49  294904 PANGRAZZI Paolo 1988 ITA  2:00.35  +3.75  40.20
 56  38  103512 FRISCH Jeffrey 1984 CAN  2:00.96  +4.36  46.74
 57  55  103762 WERRY Tyler 1991 CAN  2:00.99  +4.39  47.06
 58  60  170131 FAARUP Christoffer 1992 DEN  2:01.00  +4.40  47.17
 59  63  430640 BABICKI Pawel 1994 POL  2:02.46  +5.86  62.82
Did not start 1st run
 62  100558 COOK Dustin 1989 CAN
 39  202196 BRANDNER Klaus 1990 GER
Did not finish 1st run
 64  460071 ACHIRILOAIE Ioan Valeriu 1990 ROU
 61  54076 KOECK Niklas 1992 AUT
 48  422310 SEJERSTED Adrian Smiseth 1994 NOR
Article Tags: Alpine, Top Rotator, Top Story

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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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