Bansko: Lindsey wins super G for 10th victory of season

26 February 2012 11:52

BANSKO, Bulgaria – Just when it looks like she’s fast, Lindsey Vonn kicks in the turbo speed. That’s what it took for her to win the World Cup in Bansko on Sunday, the tightest and most exciting super G of the ladies season.

The third racer to start – a very telling bib number for her – it was Italian Daniela Merighetti who set the bar, screaming down the Marc Girardelli course and taking a healthy lead. Only Lichtenstein’s Tina Weirather could bump her out of the leader’s box, but only by 0.02 seconds. Vonn saw both Weirather’s and Merighetti’s runs and had a feeling that although there were several top racers still to come, Weirather would be the woman to beat.

“I knew they skied really well,” Vonn said. “I had a feeling Weirather would win this race. I was like OK, that’s the standard. I have to beat that.”

Vonn was behind on the top part of the course, which, with its constant vertical pitch and many turns, several racers named as the toughest of the speed venues. Then she made a big mistake about halfway down the track, nearly losing her footing. She dropped to more than a half a second behind Weirather. But that’s when her turbo speed kicked in and the American somehow ate up the bottom half of the course and crossed the finish line in 1 minute, 15.66 seconds for her 10th win of the season, just 0.05 ahead of Weirather as Merighetti notched the first super G podium of her Cup career, 0.07 seconds back.

“I just hit a bump funny and lost the line, I knew it was a bad mistake, so on the very bottom I knew I had to take a lot of risk,” Vonn said. “I have a good ability to take speed from a pitch onto the flats. I have a turbo waiting in the wings in case I need it.”

Weirather, who has had a ground-breaking season with three downhill podiums and now her second SG, watched Vonn come down the course and thought for a moment that Saturday might be her day for the top step of the podium.

"I was in the leader box and Lindsey came down and was six tenths behind me in the last intermediate. I was really hoping I could beat her today but again she was faster,” Weirather said. “Again it’s tight and I hope that SOME day I can beat her. It has also to do with luck today. I could be sad about second place but I could also be fourth with three hundredths slower, so I’m happy.”

Although she has raced on the World Cup for the last 12 years, Merighetti is just now having the season of her life. Last month she not only notched the first victory of her  career, but did it in front of a home crowd in the Cortina d’Ampezzo downhill and proved on Saturday that the victory was no fluke.

“I don’t know what I’m doing different,” the Italian said. “Today it was not easy. I tried to push from the start to bottom. I did very good the part at the top. It’s a close race, but it’s OK. I’m very happy today – it’s my first time in top three in super G. With these people around it’s so nice.”

The giant stadium at the finish area was filled with about 10,000 spectators, all blowing bugles and cheering loudly for every one of the 51 starters.

As with her initial arrival into Bulgaria at the airport in Sofia, Vonn was mobbed by fans once out of the finish area. On the way to her press conference, four large bodyguards had to lead her through the crowd. Once safely inside, she smiled at everyone and said, “whew, made it!”

The American said she is beginning to feel the wear and tear at this point in the season and was grateful of another victory to give her an extra boost for the next couple of weeks.

“I was feeling like my energy was low,” she said. “There was a lot of travel the last couple weeks but I think I recovered well. I finally feel better. I think I’ll be ready for next week now.”

The finish times separating the other top 10 women  was not so tight Saturday, but all finished within a second of Vonn’s winning time. Tina Maze, who now trails Vonn in the overall standings with 1074 points to Vonn’s 1602 was fourth, 0.33 seconds back, Switzerland’s Martina Schild was fifth, 0.38 seconds back and Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who is now third in the overall standings with 1046 points, was sixth, 0.60 back. Lara Gut took seventh, 0.63 seconds back, Julia Mancuso eighth, 0.65 seconds back, Nicole Hosp ninth, 0.89 back and Anna Fenninger 10th, 0.93 back.

Mother Nature let up for Sunday’s race in Bansko, the ripping winds that led to the cancelation of Saturday’s downhill were gone and the air was calm, skies overcast and temperatures warm for the super G race, the last on the ladies tour before World Cup finals in Schladming. The women have two more stops on the tour before that, however, heading to Ofterschwang, Germany later this week for two giant slaloms and a slalom, then Are, Sweden the following Friday and Saturday for GS and SL.

by Shauna Farnell

Go here for video interviews with the ladies on the tight podium.

Go here for video of race highlights.

Go here for full race results.