Andorra: Tessa Worley wins second straight GS

12 February 2012 10:14

SOLDEU-GRANDVALIRA, Andorra – The wind was not so much a factor for Tessa Worley on Sunday when she charged to the lead not only in the first run but then held on for the win in the Soldeu giant slalom – notching her second straight World Cup GS victory.

“I was happy to win here with all the support,” said Worley, who crossed the finish line to the entire crowd of 5,000 chanting “Tessa, Tessa, Tessa!”

“It’s not France, but it kind of feels like home,” she said. “My parents are here. It was nice having all those kids and everyone at the finish. It was a very good crowd cheering for everybody. It felt good. I was happy to share this great race and win with them.”

After leading the first run, Worley won the race with a combined time of 2 minutes, 1.80 seconds. Officials moved the second run start lower in an effort to avoid some of the wind at the top of the Avet slope. After taking fourth in the first run, finishing nearly a half second out, Tina Maze got a blast of wind that hampered visibility in the second, but nonetheless charged to second place, finishing just 0.16 seconds behind Worley. In spite of bruising her ribs and left shoulder in a training crash before coming to Andorra, Maria Hoefl-Riesch notched her first GS podium of the season, taking third, 0.75 seconds back.

Also winning the last GS race in Kranjska Gora, Worley now takes over the lead in the giant slalom standings with 310 points, usurping 2011 World Cup GS champion Viktoria Rebensburg, who missed a gate in the first run Sunday, notching her first DNF in a GS race in more than three years.

“I think I was a little too dire in the flat part, so I couldn’t make the turn and I went out,” Rebensburg said. “The snow was pretty aggressive, with the wind the last couple of days, it was getting more aggressive, but normally I can handle that. I like aggressive slopes, but sometimes it happens. We’re always trying to take the limit and sometimes then mistakes happen.”

All racers commented on the quality of the venue in Andorra – remarking about everything from the crowd’s enthusiasm to the challenge of the race hill. Worley said her style is well-suited to the mix of terrain features on the Avet slope.

“I think the steep parts are better for me,” she said. “In the first run, it was the middle part I did well with the bumps – I kept a lot of speed on this part and didn’t lose too much time on the steep part. The slope has everything, it’s technical, flat in some parts, it’s a very nice slalom and GS slope.”

Maze, who was roped into dozens of photos with fans following the race, said she enjoyed everything about the Soldeu experience … even the wind.

“I have only the best things to say about the race here,” she said. “It’s just all the best, good organization, good slope, good snow, nice people, very happy atmosphere, it was fun to ski also for wind.”

Maze had a bit of a hiccup in her success before Sunday’s race, coming off an uncharacteristically slow downhill (26th place) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen followed by a missed gate in the super G, then finishing 11th in Saturday’s slalom even though she had finished top five in the discipline the previous six races.

“Yesterday I had a lot of trouble to ski down this steep,” she said. “I was fighting, I could not ski free. I’m still fighting, but GS is working good after Kranskja Gora. We changed some material.  It was windy, I knew that. I didn’t see much down here. I knew I needed to let my skis down, wind or no wind.”

Hoefl-Riesch was also feeling redeemed by Sunday’s result, particularly after Saturday, when she tallied her fourth DNF of the season in slalom.

“I’m really happy after yesterday, I came back strong,” she said, adding that in GS, her results are on a fast track skyward (24th in Soelden followed by a DNF in Aspen, 10th in Lienz, sixth in Kranjska and now third). “The trend is going up. I did not feel great in the first run. The snow is really special here – really dry and aggressive, so if your edges are too sharp, you have trouble getting the turns. I tried to keep my edges going down.”

When asked if they are trying to catch Lindsey Vonn (eighth in Sunday’s race) in the overall, both Hoefl-Riesch and Maze said it’s not something that comes to mind very often. Vonn leads the standings with a rather jaw-dropping 1382 points and Maze is next in line with 972.

“Hope has to be always, but I’m not trying to think about that,” Maze said. “It’s my goal, but 400 points is still a lot. I need to do my job, not think about the points. I think it is the most important thing to be relaxed and enjoy the skiing, catch the podium like I did today.”

Hoefl-Riesch said that winning a second overall Cup title is not among her goals this season, especially as she trails Vonn and Maze in the standings with 856 points.

“I think the distance is too big,” she said. “I don’t look too much on it. I’m having a pretty good season. It’s just the points in slalom I’m missing. This year I just finished three races out of seven. This is my biggest problem for keeping up in the overall. I will try to do better.”

Italian Manuela Moelgg notched by far her best GS result of the season in fourth Sunday, the only other racer to finish within a second of Worley, 0.99 seconds out. After her, Elisabeth Goergl was putting down a truly smoking second run – leading the whole way – but snagged the second to the last gate, tearing the banner clean off the posts and nearly crashing. She crossed the finish line on one ski and still ended up fifth and 1.00 second out. Her teammate Anna Fenninger notched the fastest second run of the day (50.97 seconds) and ended up sixth, 1.14 seconds out as Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon nailed her second top 10 in two days in seventh, 1.28 seconds out. After Vonn in eighth (1.36 seconds out), Lara Gut brought it down for ninth, 1.61 seconds back and Austrian Eva-Maria Brem notched her first top 10 in more than two years in 10th, 1.93 seconds back.

The women’s World Cup now moves to Sochi, Russia and continues with a downhill on Saturday and a super-combined Sunday.

Go here for video interviews with the top three.

Go here for a video of race highlights.

by Shauna Farnell

Go here for complete results.