Hannes Reichelt prolonged the drama that has seen the 2014 version of the greatest Downhill race be one of the best. First it was the worry over snow that saw 900 helicopter trips bring snow to cover the Hausberg section of the course, then after having changed the … design of the course, it snowed. After this it was a change in the programme that saw Felix Neureuther win the slalom after Marcel Hirscher proved he is mortal by having to hike. This gave advantage to Aksel Lund Svindal in the race for the overall. Come race day in the downhill, first it was Bode Miller, looking for his first Kitzbuehel Downhill win, then Svindal took the lead and then right at the end of the tops seeds, Hannes Reichelt put in a clean run to win and send the 50,000 Austrian fans back into town ready to party and party hard.
Miller was, he admitted, pretty bummed after making mistakes on his way down. Rainer Salzgeber, Racing Manager of the Head racers was astounded that Miller had still been in touch after making such a huge mistake. Miller admitted after the race that approaching Haisberg he had been tempted to ski down Hausberg. This year that part of the course had been fenced off and the racers had been taken down the path to the slalom hill, Ganslern. Svindal commented that it could have been quicker going down the Hausberg section before Miller chirped back “apart from the fences!”
While Miller made himself comfortable in the leaders enclosure, he did not feel that he would in the lead for long. Svindal did not look as though he would be challenging as he was almost eight tenths behind half way down the course. Despite the course being almost three and a half thousand meters in length (over two miles), to claw that chunk of time back in one section had the attention of the crowd. It was simply jaw dropping. As Svindal tucked in to the finish across from the Slalom hill, it was a race between the two Head racers. Svindal crossed the line and had the lead, much to the agony of many of the neutrals.
With Erik Guay taking the week off after injurying his knee in Wengen, the likes of Innerhofer, Paris, Heel and Theaux all failed to better Svindal and Miller. The drama though went up a notch as Reichelt left the start. From zero to eighty in three seconds, jumping half the length of a football field and then into some huge turns and into Steilhang: Reichelt took the lead. It was known that Svindal had been fast on the lower section of the course and so it was now a question of whether Reichelt could hold on: He was going fast.
The green light followed Reichelt down and it stayed with him all the way, It was the first win for an Austrian in Kitzbuehel since 2006 and Michael Walchhofer. Only two winners of the Hahnenkamm Downhill have gone on to win the Olympic Downhill: Toni Sailer and Franz Klammer – both Austrians! Could Reichelt follow in their illustrious footsteps in Sochi?
With the course getting quicker a few of the later runners made it into the thirty to score points. Ben Thomsen, Canada, came down from bib number 50 to post twelfth fastest time and make the Canadian Olympic team – three hundredths separated him from Johan Clarey and thirteenth spot that would have seen him watching the racing on the television.
With the weather playing its trump card at the end of the racing, a decision as to the timing for the Super G and Combined will be made in the morning. The Super G will either be at 10-15 or if the snow is too heavy, then the Super G will be at 1pm with the slalom under the lights starting at 5pm.