Dominik Paris rewrote the record books in Kitzbuehel as he become the first Italian to win on the famous course since Kristian Ghedina won in 1998, albeit Ghedina won a sprint race. With an almost capacity crowd and running the full length of the Streif, this was downhill racing at its very best. With the stage set for a great race, the racers did their best to perform, and perform they did. Max Franz did his best to provide Austria with their first winner since 2006 but despite holding the lead for a long time, the young Austrian could not hold on for the win of all wins. In the end Paris made history in giving Italy their fourth win in Downhill in this World Cup season ahead of Erik Guay and Hannes Reichelt.
The race was full of excitement from the moment that Peter Fill set off from number 1. With World Cup places up for grabs in this the last Downhill before the World Championships, most racers knew that only a podium would give them a cherished ticket to Schladming. Georg Streitberger looked to be heading for a fast time but a small mistake after Hausberg Jump saw him lose valuable time. While he went into the lead, his lead lasted just one racer as Max Franz put himself into pole position.
This was how it stayed for the next 16 racers. Not even the fastest man in training, Aksel Lund Svindal was able to better the time of the two Austrians and while he looked to be heading for the podium as he gathered speed towards the finish, an uncharacteristic mistake at the top and then at the bottom ruined his chances. “I knew that when I crossed the finish line that this run would not be good enough,” he explained afterwards. Svindal had been held in the start as the racer before him, Johan Clarey had been having a super impressive run and was ahead of Max Franz as he came into the Ziel Schuss. While the fiercely patriotic Austrian crowd willed him to slow down the Frenchman dropped too low and ended up in the catch fencing. From having been in the lead in Val Gardena in 2011, Clarey has proved he is an immense talent but has had bad luck. His time will come!
With the top group of seven providing a superb spectacle for the crowd, including the likes of Felix Baumgartner and Arnie Schwarzernigger, Dominik paris swept into the front, much to the dismay of the crowd. Next down was Erik Guay and he battled with Paris’s time but finished 0.13 behind the Italian. After 3312 metres of racing this equates to 3.66 metres! Hannes Reichelt then gave the Austrians hope for a while but he failed to dislodge either of the two who had gone before him and had to settle for third.
Just as the crowd started to gather their breath and wonder at the racing, Andre Sporn came down and pushed Max Franz further down. Sporn would later be disqualified due to the size of the plate under his bindings. David Poisson gave the French team much to celebrate as he came down from bib 29 to post the fifth best time – this went up to 4th after the disqualification of Sporn.
Normally after the top 30 have been down, the crowd starts to fall away and start doing what Kitzbuehel is notorious for – partying. In the final training run, Christof Innerhofer was yellow flagged after falling, he claimed he was given the all clear to continue by a course official and so carried on. The race referee, Gunther Hujara came down hard on the Italian, fining him CHF999 for not obeying the yellow flag and demoted him from his start number of 19 to 46. With manny Osborne-Paradis putting in a great run to jump into the top 10 and then Sigmar Klotz taking 12th, this was a race that ran and ran. Innerhofer eventually wound up in 2oth.
Kitzbuehel is a race that needs no introduction. It is a race that attracts the attention for the speed, not as fast as Wengen but the steep pitches and the hard ice packed corners mean that the 52 racers that left the start hut deserve the ultimate respect. Kitzbuehel weekend is as big to the Austrians as Royal Ascot or FA Cup Final day to the British. The world stops for the race. To win at Kitzbuehel gives you legendary status and while the fastest man in training did not win, the fact that Dominik Paris took the spoils surprised no one. The tall Italian is fast making a name for himself. Watch out for this man in Schladming at the World Championships.