BORMIO, Italy — Municipal workers furiously shoveled piles of water-logged snow off sidewalks in town as the women’s World Cup field tackled three separate precipitation zones on their way through the final section of the men’s downhill course — the famed Stelvio — during today’s slalom. The weather, decisively snow at the start and rain at the finish, was a mixture of sleet, slop, and freezing rain by the midpoint of the course first run, and it did not abate during the second.
“The weather reminds me of Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom. I got out here this morning, and I was like, ‘Yes! Here we go. I’m going to be soaking wet,'” said Mikaela Shiffrin. “The gates hit the snow, and the slush comes off and hits you in the goggles, so by the end of the course you can’t really see but you can see just enough to finish. You have to keep going and embrace it, because it’s happening to everyone — might as well embrace it.”
Shiffrin held only three-hundredths of a second lead over Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmer heading into the second run.
“After Lienz I had a couple days of tough training, and everything was starting to get in my head, so I thought maybe I should just try to let it go. You know, have some fun with it. So that was a really fun run, but I think I have more speed in me,” Shiffrin remarked after the first run.
It was a rough go even for Pietilae-Holmner, who didn’t necessarily feel all that clean on the hill despite finishing second on the day.
“It (was) a bit bumpy in the top section, but the lower part was in good shape,” said Pietilae-Holmner. “I was surprised when I saw how fast I was but the slope was definitely holding up. The only difficulty was dealing with the wet snow chucks that you got on the goggles.”
France’s Nastasia Noens matched her career-best result — and only previous podium — from Flachau in 2011 by finishing third from bib 28. She skied the fastest second run and moved onto the podium from her 11th-place position after first run, much to the surprise of the crowd at the finish line.
“Last summer I focused on improving my technique to be back as I once was. At the beginning of the season I had a few problems, but this result finally gives me great satisfaction and makes me realize that I’m still as strong as I used to be two years ago. Thinking of Sochi, this is what I wanted because it makes me even more confident,” remarked Noens.
Disappointment struck a number of skiers on the second run who had to fight against ruts and deteriorating conditions on the upper pitch. A challenging hairpin set over a roller just eight turns into the course challenged racers to hold their line, and a hard left foot delay in the flat swallowed the momentum of several skiers.
Marlies Schild, who was just two points behind Shiffrin in the slalom standings heading into today’s race, attacked on her second run but appeared to overwork her skis in the peeling snow. She sat 15th after first run but was only able to move up to sixth by the end of the race. Shiffrin now leads the slalom standings by 62 points over Schild as a result of the day.
It was another top-5 finish for Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon who charged hard from 15th into fifth with a quick-paced second run, while her teammate Erin Mielzynski logged her first slalom points of the season by finishing 17th.
“It was one of those races where you have to be flexible and do whatever you can. It was half rain, half snow,” noted Gagnon. “I had a pretty tough time just to make it to the bottom in the second run because I was really wild but I was charging. It was pretty tough.” With another solid result, Gagnon has moved into third in the slalom standings. She finished last season in 17th with fewer points than she has already accumulated after only half of the slalom races on the calendar this year.
Misfortune struck Tina Maze. Although in striking distance of the podium after first run, Maze completely lost her form in the ruts and fell from fifth all the way back to 24th, more than two seconds behind Shiffrin’s winning pace. Maze was visibly distraught in the finish area, just as she has been several times this season that simply isn’t coming together for her as easily as last year. Also frustrated was Maria Hoefl-Riesch who exited the second run course early after trying to ski a flush backwards and getting thrown even farther off line.
The first World Cup women’s slalom race held in Bormio since Finals in 2008, today’s race was a replacement for Zagreb, Croatia where warm temperatures prevented sufficient snowmaking in order to host the event. Shiffrin was last year’s winner at the Zagreb Snow Queen Trophy race as well, and this is her second victory this season, solidifying her place at the top of the slalom standings.
“Marlies (Schild) and Maria (Hoefl-Riesch) and all the girls, really, they all want to get that top spot and get the red bib, so I’m just trying to stay focused on each day,” noted Shiffrin. “I’m happy to get back on the podium and back on the top step heading into the Olympics. From here, it’s all about who has the most confidence.”
See more photos from this race in our gallery.
By Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup slalom, Bormio, Italy, Jan 5, 2014
Equipment – Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Shiffrin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Pietilae-Holmner, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
3 Noens, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
4 Schild, B. Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5 Gagnon, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
6 Schild, M Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7 Kirchgasser, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10 Hansdotter, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
Women’s World Cup slalom, Bormio, Italy, Jan 5, 2014. … make up race from Zagreb Jan 4. … It is the 16th race of the women’s 32 race 2014 World Cup schedule… the fourth of eighth scheduled slaloms. … It is the 54th World Cup race hosted by Bormio… the 12th slalom and eighth for women.
It is the sixth career World Cup win for Mikaela Shiffrin, all in slalom. … her second win of the season after winning at Levi, Nov. 16. … It is the 263rd U.S. World Cup win. … She matches Kristina Koznick for fourth on the all-time U.S. list for World Cup slalom wins. Koz is the only other American to win a World Cup slalom at Bormio, scored March 19, 2000.
It is the sixth career World Cup podium for Maria Pietilae-Holmner, the fourth in slalom. … It is her second podium of the season having placed third in GS at Val d’Isere Dec. 22.
It is the second career World Cup podium for Nastasia Noens, the previous also a third and also in slalom, scored at Flachau Jan. 11, 2011.
It is the eighth career top-five World Cup finish for Marie-Michele Gagnon. … Her third of the season all in slalom. … It is the second scoring result for Erin Mielzynski this season, the other a 16th place in GS at Beaver Creek Dec. 1.
Maria Hoefl-Riesch (DNF 2nd run in race) maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 611-609 over Tina Weirather (did not race). … Anna Fenninger (did not race) is third with 597pts. … Shiffrin leads the U.S. in fifth with 414pts and Gagnon the Canadians in eighth with 280pts.
Shiffrin leads the slalom standings 302-240 over Marlies Schild (sixth in race). … Gagnon is third with 180pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||FIS Points|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|74||35079||SIMARI BIRKNER Maria Belen||1982||ARG|