Christof Innerhofer made it his fourth World Cup win with victory in the Beaver Creek Downhill, the second downhill of the season. Â With Aksel Lund Svindal taking the runners up spot and his countryman, Kjetil Jansrud in third, this was a fascinating race with many factors the affecting the runs of the racers. Wind certainly played a part in some of the runners, though few racers complained of this after the race. For the beleagured Italian team, who not so long ago were in dire straits financially, this was a welcome respite.
The Beaver Creek Birds of Prey Downhill Course is one of the toughest on the World Cup downhill circuit: It is fast, it has long high speed turns and it has two big jumps. While Innerhofer was not the fastest of all the racers on the top flat gliding section, he was only 23rd fastest on the opening section, it was through Talon and its large sweeping turns that he started to make his mark. The need to stay clean and smooth was evident and this is what the Italian managed to do with his Rossignol skis.
Svindal was the outstanding favourite coming into the race: He had won the last training run, had won the two previous World Cup Downhill’s and is in awesome form. Yet while he admitted to having made a mistake through the high speed technical section,Â Svindal commented: â€œI was a little late on some points but itâ€™s hard to call that a mistake as in the race you push hard and things like that can happen,â€ reflecting on his line through the Talon section where he had taken a super aggressive line. Â â€œI had to change my skiing a little half way down as I could tell I wasnâ€™t carrying the speed I wanted, so on the lower section I tried to adapt. Today was about taking risks but also putting a good run the whole way down. Itâ€™s a second place for me here today and I am really happy about it.â€
Innerhofer was in the finish as Svindal was coming down and apart from seeing Svindal better his time on the top section, Innerhofer had the better of the giant Norwegian the rest of the way down. Svindal did make inroads on the Italians time approaching the finish but it was too great a difference to make up. With Austrian defending World Cup Champion Klaus Kroell dropping off the pace, Svindal edged further ahead of the Austrian in the season long standings by almost a 100 points.
Svindal’s compatriot, Kjetil Jansrud made it a Norwegian 2 – 3 in finishing half a second behind the winner. This was the second time to two good friends have been on the podium together in the World Cup.Â Jansrud commented afterwardsÂ â€œI made minor changes to my setup and that seems to have worked â€“ I think there are a few sections where I could have skied better but I am very happy. For me itâ€™s a huge change from the training runs, and a good change! I didnâ€™t expect t be on the podium in Downhill so soon so this is a great day for me. I was sure Aksel was going to win today but a few mistakes cost him too much time but with the two of us on the podium today I think it only confirms we have done good things this autumn and in the preparation period! Today is a great boost to my confidence for the Super G and Giant Slalom in the next days!â€
The conditions were brutal and saw a number of racers struggle with the conditions. The lack of natural snow made the conditions harder and this saw the demise of Max Franz, on the podium in Lake Louise, and then another of the stars of the Lake Louise race, Tobias Stechert crashed out with knee injuries that saw the race held up while he was taken off the course.
While Svindal has definitely taken the mantel of Didier Cuche as the man to beat, the season is turning into a fascinating spectacle. For the second week running bib Â number 42 sprung a surprise. Last week it was Marco Sullivan who popped into joint third with it and this week young Austrian Florian Scheiber took fourth with the bib. Sullivan this week jumped from bib 31 to 18th: not bad for a racer that was dropped by his sponsors and yet did not let his passion and belief desert him as he fought to get back into the elite of world speed skiing.
With the two big jumps proving as spectacular as ever – image jumping over half the length of a football field at a speed of around 70 miles an hour for the Golden Eagle jump, it was the need to carry the speed from the steep section across the flats that was the most important element to the racers time. A fast speed across the flats was imperative to have a chance of breaking into the top spots.
While some racers get super nervous in the run up to the start, today’s winner, Innerhofer, explained his tactics: “â€œI was so relaxed on the start today,â€ Innerhofer said while standing at the leaderbox. â€œSomehow I made it feel like a training run today and all I told myself at the start was â€“ Go full gas!â€
Britain’s TJ Baldwin competed and placed 55th.