Ted Ligety produced a downhill performance that many would be happy with to snatch the Super Combined in Wengen from Alexis Pinturault with Natko Zrncic Dim taking third. Pinturault had led after the first run, the slalom, but had … no answer to Ligety when the Downhill skis came out. The full wengen course is long and the Super Combined Downhill track is still 3.1km long and a leg burner. For the Slalom racers this length of course was tough and with the slalom and Downhill having been switched due to the weather coming in overnight, the long downhill course would be after they had done a run of slalom!
The jury got it spot on with swapping the runs, despite many of the downhillers feeling the wrath of the course with its ruts and soft snow. By the time the slalom run started, the Slalom piste had been cleared almost and this allowed the vast army of helpers including volunteers and the military to work on the 3.1 km of Downhill track.
Ligety, one of the racers to favour starting the Slalom first as he went number 1, produced a solid run that was only beaten by Alexis Pinturault, by a massive 1.22 seconds. Ligety said afterwards: “I think in a way I was lucky, especially in the morning running first because I got a super smooth course and that helped me to relax and stay enough ahead of the downhill guys despite not skiing that fantastic. I feel lucky that I could nab Alexis on this one because he is one of the best competitors out there.”
With only four racers within two seconds of Pinturault from the Slalom, the defending champion knew that he had to post a superlative time in his favoured discipline if he was to defend his win from last year.With the likes of Svindal and Jansrud over four and five seconds back respectively, the two Norwegians agreed that they could pull some of that time back but not all, it would be a tough ask they felt.
It was Svindal who put the first major marker down in the Downhill. Fastest at all the splits, a mistake through the final curves saw him scrub a lot of speed yet he still took fastest time on the downhill. For a long time it looked as though he would hold on for the win but to the joy of the local crowd, Sandro Viletta managed to topple him and then stayed there as first Romed Baumann (crashed within site of the finish) and then Thomas Mermillod Blondin failed to better his time.
Three years ago in Val d’Isere, Natko Zrncic Dim stood on the podium with his friend and delighted training partner Ivica Kostelic. This time Kostelic had crashed out in the Slalom and the Croatian hopes were held up by the 27 year old. Zrncic Dim took the lead and this was immediately taken away by Ligety.
Ligety commented after the race: “There was a lot of snowfall, but they groomed the track so it was not the greatest snow on the downhill, but I feel lucky that we had good light. In downhill if I don’t feel confident enough to go hard I let myself go slow so I could see where I was going.” Ligety did well enough on the downhill to post a lead in the finish of over a second. With his friend and good rival leading from the slalom by over 1.2 seconds, would this be enough.
Pinturault has worked hard at his speed events recently but he started to shed time. All the way to the last split however, the Frenchman held on but when he crossed the line at the bottom of the demanding run, the light was red and the win was for the American. This was Ligety’s 20th World Cup race win yet his first win in another discipline other than Giant Slalom. After a disastrous January that had seen too many DNF’s for his liking, this was Ligety back on the top of the podium.
Svindal managed to hold on to fifth place and his 45 points see him back in front of the Overall while Ligety strengthens his hold on third. With Marcel Hirscher not competing until Sunday, Svindal needs a good score in the Downhill to reaffirm his position.
In order for this to happen, the clouds need to move on so that the fresh 20cm of snow that arrived overnight can freeze and we can have a proper fast downhill!
Dougie Crawford admitted that he did not have the best of slalom runs and this left him with a lot to do in the Downhill section if he was to make his goal of a top 30 place. Crawford finished in 35th spot and now focuses on the Downhill on Saturday.