Maze beats weather to take opening World Cup race of the season

First it was delayed 15 minutes and then a further hold as the clouds came in. With a three quarter of a second lead over the rest of the field from the first run,the only thing that was going to beat Tina Maze was the weather. The Slovenian has a new song out at the moment and after a great season last year where she finished second in the Overall standings, we has stated that she ‘wants to be number 1 this season.’ by the time she left the start gate, the lead had grown to 1.59 seconds ahead of Kathrin Zettel who was the leader in the finish. The poor weather was getting worse and there was a real rush to get the thirty girls down the course. In the end maze held on to her win ahead of two Austrians, Kathrin Zettel and Steffie Koehle.

Maze has won on the World Cup before but she has also lost out in races and it would not have been just had the weather deprived her of this win. The way she destroyed the rest of the field in the first run was a real eye opener for the rest of the field. Rebensburg, winner of the Crystal Globe last season; Vonn, winner here last year and the rest of the fancied racers just could not live with her first run. The only thing that would stop her it seemed was the weather.

Normally the first run of a race is a fairly quiet affair for much of the media: This time the press were eager to ask the racers opinions on how the new ski regulations had affected the racers skiing. Many racers commented on the effect the skis were having in the snow yet the interesting thing was that the negative comments were few and far between, positive comments however were not in over abundance either. The reaction was more just how they were reacting.

While the first run was clear visibility wise, the second was getting worse all the way through the run. The start was a blanket of fog and this had people reminiscing of the Men’s race two years ago that had to be cancelled in the end. FIS Race Director, Atle Skaardal, used his wisdom in delaying until there was a chance and then it was bang! Commercial breaks and any delay was dispensed with so that there was every opportunity to complete the race. It worked but only just.

Young German Susanne Weinbuchner crawled into the second run from a start of 58 to place 29th after the first run. With the weather at its optimum, she blasted her way down the course and managed to hold on to the race win until the 14th racer came down. Weinbuchner would eventually go on to place 12th for her first World Cup finish. as racer after racer was sent off down the course the conditions deteriorated and by the time Lindsey Vonn headed off down the Rettenbach Glacier, things were touch and go. Vonn did not look entirely at home on the skis and while she was ahead of Curtoni who was leading in the finish, at the first split, she soon hooked a gate with her left arm and crashed out. Reports after the race indicated that there was little injury to her left shoulder. Vonn said afterwards “Second run I was trying as hard as I could to make up two and a half seconds and I got my arm caught on a gate.” On the visibility issues she also commented: “Visibility was really bad today. I think five of the top 10 went out. I’m happy with my skiing. I just didn’t execute.”

And still the fog came in. And the start intervals stayed short to get as many racers down.

Young Austrian Stefanie Koehle then came down and destroyed the field to open up a lead on the rest of the field. Koehle has been on the circuit a number of years and has slowly been making her way up the rankings but this was her best result but far. “I wanted to make a podium this year,” she explained after the race, “and of course this make it easier to qualify for the World Championships,” she added. With ten races still to go after her, Koehle had the luxury of sitting in the leaders box waiting to see if anyone could better her time.

Dominique Gisin, a Swiss racer better known for her speed racing, put in a strong performance but could not unseat the Austrian from the lead. It was left to Koehle’s compatriot Kathrin Zettel who was the first to post a faster time than her. With each racer, the uncomfortableness of the racers was noticeable: None really seemed to get the arc going, none seemed to br driving the ski. This was racing similar to back in the days of long skis and little radius. Comments of those watching on the TV echoed these thoughts. Gian Franco Kasper had explained in his talk at the FIS Alpine Forum on Friday that FIS need to embrace the fans to keep the sport going forward. Many felt that this is not the way that appealing to new skiers should be addressed.

With Rebensburg skiing out and Worley losing time, it was soon a shoot out between Zettel in the finish and Maze in the start. 1.59 second lead separated the two at the start and by the first split Maze was losing time.  It was in the middle section down the steep that Maze had won the first run and she held on second to cross the line to great roars. The Austrians had two on the podium to celebrate but Maze had recorded the win that ties her with Hermann Maier’s record of winning three times in Soelden.

Maze takes the first red bib of the season and after a tremendous amount of hard work in pre-season, she feels better, stronger and vindicated in bringing in a new serviceman for this season.Last season had not been a great season, she felt, as she had been fighting all the time. Starting the season with a win will certainly help her.