Maria Hoefl-Riesch may have had to endure the bitting cold in Lake Louise but when it mattered most, she tore into the course and posted the fastest time by seven tenths of a second over Swiss star Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden with … Elena Fanchini taking third, Anna Fenninger fourth and Nadja Ingin-Kamer fifth. Tina Weirather should have taken fifth spot but was hauled up for wearing forearm guards that are now no longer allowed in downhill.
With the race delayed by an hour after snow cannons being used to prepare the connection trails along the side of the course were blowing the fine mist that creates the snow onto the course and making visibility hard and this mist was then freezing on the forerunners goggles. The small matter of the temperature being minus thirty did not help either. This was a day where thermals and face masks were the order of the day!
While much was being made of the return, after ten months, to action of Lindsey Vonn, the fourteen time winner in Lake Lindsey, as it has been often nicknamed, there were 61 other racers in the field that wanted to win as well. Steffi Moser took the early lead with a great run and she is fast proving to be a force to be reckoned with. The girl from Reith in Alpbachtal, Tirol, is a past Europa Cup Downhill Champion and is rapidly gaining experience and starting to park herself in the top ten finishers on the World Cup.
Elena Fanchini knocked the Austrian off the lead from bin 10 and as the time between each racer was shortened, Fanchini tried to keep warm in the leaders enclosure. Ruiz Castillo was unable to better her time and neither could Mancuso who had another disappointing run. Mancuso spoke after the race on the social media networks saying ‘Racing is tough! It takes perseverance to be a champion, and sometimes even when you are working hard, and things are looking up, the results might not show. I skied hard today, and was happy with my performance… so now I’m ready for my times to show it!’
Tina Maze, another who has suffered a little with early season form, put in a run that showed she is on the way back and went into third. Then the noise of the crowd rose in anticipation and Vonn was off. From the off the 14 time winner in Lake Louise was not on the pace and despite having taken the second training run off to rest her legs, this was not, she explained after the race, about her winning, this was about her getting back racing and getting rid of the rust – it had been ten months since her last race remember!
While Tina Weirather has been in a rich vein of form this season, she has been one of the revelations this season. She came down into second behind Fanchini yet it was not long before she was informed that due to her wearing forearm guards in the downhill, she would not be on the results, she had been disqualified.
Next up it was Maria Hoefl-Riesch. Apart form Vonn, Hoefl-Riesch has also had a pretty good time in Lake Louise: She won in 2010, when she went on to win the Overall, and there was no way she was going to let anyone beat her this time. While Gut may have had the beating of everyone in Beaver Creek, Hoefl-Riesch was aiming to put matters right in Lake Louise. Gut followed the German down and it was almost as though she knew that Hoefl-Riesch was on an almost perfect run as she slipped back all the way and would eventually take eighth in the finish (and tenth at the end of the race).
After the race Hoefl-Riesch said: I am very satisfied, it was really almost perfect, the little things that did not quite fit in training, I managed today. For me it was a great day, I hope it continues like this.”
Anna Fenninger came down into third and after the race commented:Â “Fourth place is not bad, while it is freezing cold, at least the conditions were fair. Anyway I would have never thought that I could make the podium here in the downhill. I am very satisfied. My run was still very mixed.”
With Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden giving the resurgent Swiss more to cheer about with Â second place from a start number of 30, seven tenths behind Hoefl-Riesch and bettering the third place she scored last year, it seemed that the race was over. Two late runners Kasja Kling and Ramona Siebenhofer stormed into the top twenty in 11th and 17 from 55 and 49 to give Lake Louise and its spectators a great first race.
Lindsey Vonn may have been 40th, but this was about her getting back on the skis and racing…. Welcome back