Cuche strikes again!
CRANS MONTANA, Switzerland- It’s the top spot for Didier Cuche again. On the Super G, which has been replacing the one cancelled in Kitzbuchel, the Swiss veteran found the fastest way down. His time of 1 minute, 33.11 seconds proved to be too fast for everyone else. Jan Hudec, staring with bib number six seemed to have had the perfect run until 14 racers later Cuche took over the lead, leaving Hudec 0.16 seconds behind. Moments after Cuche, Benjamin Raich crossed the finish line with a great time, finishing in third place, just .21 seconds off the winner.
On a day much more like a spring one than the Tour has seen all winter, the rolling course proved to be rather challenging for a lot of the racers. Patrick Kueng, who started first hooked up his arm in the banner two gates before end of the course and crossed the finish line in a spectacular crash. He left the finish area limping a little but it seems as if apart from a bruised shin, he sustained no major injury. Bib number four, Andreas Romar also crashed at the very end of the course and it was clear it was not going to be an easy run for most. Out of the 19 skiers that didn’t make it down, Sandro Viletta suffered the worst crash- he landed badly the biggest jump on the slope and lost his helmet at the impact with the snow. Luckily he was able to get up and ski off the slope but has been taken to the hospital for a more detailed checkout- he most likely suffered a concussion.
“I knew today was going to be a challenge and it didn’t feel as if I was skiing so good on the top section, so I was really surprised to see I had the fastest time when I crossed the finish line,” Cuche said about his run.
Cuche was behind Hudec all the way till the end of the course but in the bottom section he was able to carry the speed and make up almost half a second.
“I think I was able to find the fastest and cleanest line in the lower section, somehow it just started feeling right and I’m so happy that brought me the victory.”
With today’s race being a replacement of Kitzbuhel, a venue where Cuche was able to win more than any other skier, the question was whether results like this could motivate him to rethink his decision to retire after the season?
“I don’t really think there is anything that could make me change my mind, I feel good about the decision I made and even though the results I have had since the announcement have been grate, I do find it hard to find the motivation for all the aspects of this sport. I am not sure if the latest results are coming because of the retirement, but it’s sure great to know I will be retiring on a high note.”
Even though he is nowhere near ready to retire, Hudec seems to be on a high roll these days. After rocking the Dowhnhill in Chamonix, Crans Montana brought him a podium in Super G. After a couple of days at home in Canada, Hudec seems to have gotten back to the Tour with a great mental setup.
“For me being relaxed has always been the most important thing,” Hudec said. “I have been skiing long enough to know how to do it, it’s not something you forget. For me to be able to stay fresh mentally is to be relaxed, surround myself with friends and family and just enjoy myself- than I get on the start and I want to perform and I want to be fast.”
“The last couple of days I was struggling a little bit in training, Erik [Guay] and the other guys were skiing really good and I was trying to catch up with them. Than as soon as I got number six at the draw I knew it was my chance to attack and that I would have to take advantage of that start position. The conditions are really soft, I tried to charge but skied a little too conservative at the bottom and I knew that if someone was going to beat me, it would be in the last pitch, and that’s exactly what Cuche did- he really deserved the win with that high number.”
“ I’m usually good in this kind of snow, I have a good feeling and I can ski very light on my edges. I like it better than if the snow was pretty hard, I think that if that would have been the case this would have been a really challenging SG with big jumps. The snow suited me and I took advantage of it- now I just hope not to move too far back with my start number in tomorrow’s race.”
Raich has gone through a whole lot of ups and downs this season and today’s third place comes as a nice reward for not stopping to believe that the skiing he shows in training would eventually get him a much deserved top result.
“I am finding my form now, even though I felt as if my shape was good all the time but my results were just not showing it. Today I finally have a result that I am happy with, and this third place just makes me look forward to the next races.”
“I found some good feeling in these soft conditions, it was not easy,” Raich said. “Sometimes I was pushing too hard but overall I had a good feeling and am really happy with my third place.”
With two guys starting later in the race and one at the beginning on the podium, it was not easy to tell which starting position was an advantage.
“With Cuche first with bib 20 and me in third starting 21, it’s hard to say what was better today. Normally in these conditions it’s much better to go with an earlier number but today it looks as if it was possible to be fast also starting later so I can’t really say.”
Marcel Hirscher, who is currently leading the Overall, started his third World Cup Super G today and finished in 34th position just outside the points. This was the first speed race for Hirscher in three years and he seemed thrilled just to have made it down.
“I’m very happy and I feel lucky to have made it healthy to the finish area,” Hirscher said smiling. “Today was for sure one of the toughest races for me; when you see so many racers, good friends crashing it’s not a cool thing. Some of them are professional in the discipline, seeing them going down was not easy for me. I think I did a pretty good job, I’m pretty close to the points and that’s good. I don’t yet know if I will be racing tomorrow, maybe I’ll just sleep until 10 and go for some free runs, I have yet to decide. It’s a difficult decision- focusing on my strong disciplines or trying to get a point or two in SG, the second option is for sure the more fun one.”
Bode Miller was nowhere to be seen at today’s race and that is because he flew to Vail after his crash in Bansko to get his knee checked out. He had to undergo arthroscopic surgery to clean up the knee and it and it seems as if he should be back on the Tour in no time.
A new Super G is scheduled for Saturday in Crans Montana, stay tuned for more speed action.
by Ana Jelusic