The 2014 installment of the Saslong will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the more brutal and demanding chapters in the 47-year history of racing in Val Gardena, Italy. It will also be remembered as the third time American Steven Nyman got the best of the hill and the field, skiing to the most resounding World Cup win of his career.
Surrounded by greenery, very little snow cover on the Saslong nearly nixed the race and led to extreme conditions on the track, which featured faster speeds, bigger jumps and a bumpier ride. The course’s key sections became all the more critical. Camel Humps — the famed jump over a jump — sent racers flying nearly the length of a soccer pitch, while the technical and bumpy Ciaslat section tested their off-season conditioning prior to the home stretch. Those who reached the finish line were completely depleted and relieved.
Running first, Canadian Jan Hudec set an ominous tone for the race, getting launched off the Camel Hump, rolling the windows down and nearly going over the handle bars. Hudec landed safely but promptly stood up and excused himself from the remainder of the run.
With a Birds of Prey podium fresh in memory, Nyman put on a clinical performance running an early bib No. 7 and finishing with a time of 1 minute, 55.89 seconds. The American was flawless over the Camel Hump and strong through the Ciaslat, pinching the line and making it look easy through the finish. With a second-and-a-half lead in that early stage of the game, it was evident that Nyman would be tough to beat.
Of course, a certain Norwegian downhiller, undefeated in the event this season, might have had something to say about that. By the end of the day, Kjetil Jansrud was the only other racer in the conversation with Nyman. Running 21st, the Birds of Prey champ was close, roughly four-tenths back early in the run. Through the meat of the course, Jansrud gradually gained time on Nyman, coming as close as two-tenths at the final split. But a small mistake, catching an edge over the last roll may have been the difference, solidifying Nyman’s third Val Gardena victory.
“I’ve always felt comfortable here from the first day I arrived,” said Nyman. “In 2005, I said I like this hill. I could see what I needed to do and I was ready to do it. And I crashed! And the next year, I won. And then the next year, I crashed! It treats me well and sometimes it slaps me.
“It was different this year because the snow is so thin, you’re basically feeling the fields underneath the snow,” added Nyman. “It’s rattly the whole way down the hill. And you have to keep driving over that and show it who’s boss, or it will show you who’s boss.”
Jansrud hung on to finish .31 seconds back in second place.
“I seem to be kind of stable grabbing podiums,” said Jansrud, “but hats off to Steven today. I always want to win though. When you’re in the start, you try to win. But today is one of those days when you have to admit someone is faster. I have to say that I am really impressed with Steven today because he did a perfect run.”
Jansrud was followed not-so-closely by Italy’s own Dominik Paris, who executed a controlled flight over the Camel Hump; but after a series of small mistakes through the Ciaslat, a third-place result, a whole 1.15 seconds back, is all that could be salvaged.
Not to be lost in the shuffle was a good run by American Travis Ganong who finished 13th. Ganong got pushed onto the tails of his skis coming on to the upper flats, likely losing speed in that critical part of the course. Other than that, it was a tight, compact run without major errors.
Austrian Florian Scheiber, running 25th, fell victim to the tough conditions. Getting knocked around through Ciaslat, he was bounced into the netting and ultimately airlifted from the hill. He was taken to a hospital in Bolzano, where in addition to a concussion and abrasions to the face, doctors diagnosed bruising to the chest and pelvis.
By Hank McKee
- Nyman, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Jansrud, Head/Head/Head
- Paris, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
- Fayed, Head/Head/Head
- Clarey, Head/Head/Head
- Zurbriggen, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
- Mayer, Head/Head/Head
- Feuz, Head/Head/Head
- Kueng, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Defago, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
Men’s World Cup downhill, Val Gardena, Italy, Dec. 19, 2014:
- It is the tenth of 36 races on the men’s 2014-15 World Cup schedule … the third of ten scheduled men’s downhills. … It is the 77th World Cup race held (at least in part) at Val Gardena. … It is the first of two races set for Val Gardena in this season’s 47th Saslong Classic. … The site has a snow shortage.
- Traditionally a good site for North Americans: Erik Guay is the defending champion, Steven Nyman won the 2012 classic and Manuel Osborne-Paradis won 2008. Only training run ended with Nyman in first, Kjetil Jansrud second and Tobias Stechert third. … Race was flip-flopped with the super G, originally set for Friday.
- Winning margin is .31. … third place is 1.15 out. It is the third career World Cup win for Steven Nyman, all three of them coming at Val Gardena (2006, 2012 and 2014). … He matches Cindy Nelson, Holly Flanders, Bill Johnson, Hilary Lindh and Julia Mancuso for fifth among all Americans for World Cup downhill wins.
- It is the fourth U.S. win of the season and second in downhill. … Nyman has finished 16th, third and first in the three men’s downhills held.
- It is the 19th career World Cup podium for Kjetil Jansrud … his fifth of the season in seven races. … He has placed first, first and second in three downhills this season. … It is the second straight year he has finished second at Val Gardena in downhill.
- It is the sixth career World Cup podium for Dominik Paris. … He has finished in the top five of all five completed races this season. … He had not placed better that 13th in any World Cup race at Val Gardena previously.
- It is the 14th best of 37 scoring result for Travis Ganong … his second best at Val Gardena after a tenth in 2012. … It is the 11th best showing at Val Gardena for Manuel Osborne-Paradis. … It is the second-career scoring result at Val Gardena for Benjamin Thomsen.
- Kjetil Jansrud regains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 492-440 over Marcel Hirscher (did not race). … Dominik Paris moves to third with 265pts. … Ted Ligety (did not race) is the top American in forth with 246pts. … Steven Nyman sits ninth with 177pts.
- Jansrud leads the downhill standings 280-175 over Nyman. … Fayed is third with 170pts. … Manuel Osborne-Paradis leads Canada in sixth with 106pts.
- Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup 1478-955 over France. … Italy is third at 906pts. … The U.S. sits sixth with 709pts. and Canada ninth at 339pts.
|Did not start 1st run|
|46||400281||VAN HEEK Marvin||1991||NED|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|57||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR|
|52||194542||GIRAUD MOINE Valentin||1992||FRA|