Lara Gut is on fire at the moment. This was her second World Cup race of the season and this was her second win. With the new course, … the ‘sister’ course to the famed mens course, the ‘Birds of Prey’. famed for being technically demanding, Gut had been a class above all the rest all week during training and yet it is race day that counts and on race day Gut used her early start number to her best ability and laid down a time none of the top seeds could match. Going from number 11, Gut was technically sounder and Tina Weirather and Elena Fanchini took second and third. The top five was rounded out by Fabienne Suter and Anna Fenninger.
The Raptor course has been designed with the 2015 World Championships in mind. First impressions from the early training runs were favourable even if racers thought it was fast. Julia Mancuso was quoted as saying “the faster you go, the harder it is.” Lauren Ross, one of the American racers, explained that the course was icier and more gnarly than it had been in training and Gut was one of the few to really master the conditions. Gut was strong and technically better than the rest of the field through the middle section of the course: she carved turns where others slid into them and she was solid through the turns where others were not. This was a great example of downhill racing and how to carve turns.
â€œToday the snow was a bit different, maybe like on the second day of training. I’m in good shape right now and really enjoyed fighting on this course. I tried to be as clean as possible on my skis and even if I didn’t quite managed to do so today, I’m really happy it worked out well in the end. Tina might have made a couple of mistakes as wellâ€, Gut concluded laughing.
Weirather, taking her fifth World Cup podium, just under half a second behind Gut explained about the course:Â â€œIt is a very challenging course and taking too much risk can put yourself in a very critical situationâ€, said the 24-year-old. â€œFinding the right balance between attacking and keeping the line is the key here.Â With all the injuries I had in the past, it is clearly important for me to have such a good start into the season. It gives me confidence and hopefully I’ll be able to keep this momentum.â€œ
Last season the Americans had been a class above the rest of the field as they dominated the World Cup. This year they could not manage to get a single racer into the top 15, Stacey Cook was their best with 19th and Julia Mancuso in 20th. With Lindsey Vonn back on skis, she spent the morning training Super G in Vail after damaging her ACL in the run up to Beaver Creek, they will be hoping that she can return to full form in Lake Louise next week. Stacey Cook had won the second training run but in the words of the Head Coach for the American team, Alex Hoedelmoser, they ‘did not execute the game plan.’Â “We had a good plan, we were prepared, some of them maybe tried too hard and some of them made mistakes,” explained the American Head coach.
This was the opening week of speed racing for the Girls and already it is clear to see that Lara Gut is the racer to beat at the moment. The diminutive smiling Swiss racer, who speaks five languages fluently, is making people stand up and take note. She won the Giant Slalom in Soelden, she skipped the slalom in Levi and now has won in Beaver Creek. The Super G in the morning will be a further test for her. Is this a changing of the guard in the speed races or just early season form being shown? Tina Maze, the 2400 plus point woman of last season, placed 16th, how she must be liking the fact that someone else is taking the media attention at the moment.
With 18,000 hours having been spent erecting the A Nets down the course, this course, in the words of the US Press Officer, Doug Haney, “is a real beaut!”Â With a start elevation of 11,286 feet, this sucker twists, winds and dives across 8,071 feet of the most gnarly terrain womenâ€™s World Cup has ever seen.
With two more races scheduled for the weekend, a Super G and Giant Slalom, Beaver Creek is vibrant and ready to rock. The men are in town next week.