Deville takes first career win in Kitzbuhel, Kostelic wins combined
KITZBUHEL, Austria—Cristian Deville took home his first career victory today in the men's slalom as controversy overshadowed the winner on this cloudy, wet day on the famed Ganslern course.
Sitting in fourth position after the first run, Deville was behind Matt by 0.73 seconds. On a degrading slalom course due to warm temperatures and rain, he skied fast and smooth, clocking 1 minute 39.19 seconds over the two-run time, to win by nearly the same differential—0.72 ahead of second place Matt, and 0.78 ahead of third place Ivica Kostelic, who also secured his third consecutive combined win in Kitzbuhel.
“It was a clean second run,” said Deville, who couldn't stop smiling, “but I didn't expect to make up so much time.”
The 31-year-old slalom specialist joins the ranks of Piero Gros and Alberto Tomba, the only Italians to win the Kitzbuhel slalom. Deville earned his first podiums this season—Beaver Creek (second) and Flachau (third)—but first place had evaded him until now.
Twelve years ago, Mario Matt won the slalom here, but he couldn't repeat that feat today. He did however say he was happy with his first podium of the season.
"The second run was very bumpy, with lots of holes” he said. “It was hard to ski and Cristian had a great run. I'm a little bit disappointed not winning, but I'm pleased with second place.”
Snow conditions this weekend presented major problems for the course crews and organizers as rain turned to heavy snow then rain again through the course of the weekend. The super G was canceled on Friday, and though the downhill was held on Saturday, it began at the lowest possible start at Alte Schneise.
“It's the type of day you really need to fight hard to get a result,” said Canada's Brad Spence, who placed 14th in the slalom. “This is probably one of the toughest hills on a good day and they you factor in the tough snow conditions and all that stuff and it doesn't make it any easier. I think the biggest problem is the inconsistency of the snow. At one place it can be ice and then you take a turn and there is a big hole.”
Even for Kostelic, it was a challenge dealing with a course “battered with rain.” But he was pleased with his results today especially after crashing in downhill training this week and “slightly” injuring his ankle. “I am very satisfied with my weekend, it was a tough few days,” he said.
However, the defending Overall World Cup Champion was furious about a controversy that emerged this weekend. It surrounded Austria's Marcel Hirscher. According to the head of the Croatian Ski Federation, Hirscher got away with straddling gates in the Zagreb and Adelboden slaloms. At Wengen, he was disqualified for a straddle, which Hirscher claims he didn't know about. At Kitzbuehel, he was disqualified for straddling during his second run—every time he claims it's without his knowledge.
The Zagreb straddle rumor was confirmed before the slalom race today by Austrian team chief Mathias Berthold, who reviewed the tapes five times in slow-motion. He told Reuters that second place to Hirscher in that race, Felix Neureuther, also straddled.
When Kostelic heard that Hirscher had in fact missed the gate in Zagreb, and didn't admit it, he was angry. "It struck me deeply," he said with great pride, as the Zagreb slalom is in his home country and he could have won as he placed third. "I was very disappointed and it was very motivating for me [today]."
The defending Overall World Cup Champion, who is very outspoken about knowing and respecting the sport and history, said: "Sport means something. It has basic values which you always like to point out. When these basic values are walked over, I personally don't forget these. It's a pretty unclean picture."
Kostelic hinted to press that after the experience Hirscher has in slalom, knowing the difference between straddling and not should be obvious. Last week, after the Wengen race in which Hirscher was disqualified, he claimed it's not so easy to distinguish the difference.
FIS rules state that there are 15 minutes to contest a result, but another rule states that a complaint can be put forward up to 30 days after the race if there is "clear evidence" of an offence.
Hirscher did tell press that he agrees something needs to be done to create a fair playing field, and supports any changes to gate rules determined by FIS.
Kostelic won the only traditional combined on the World Cup schedule by 4.55 seconds over Beat Feuz. Silvan Zurbriggen was third, Adrien Theaux fourth, and Ted Ligety fifth.
"Classic combined is a tradition of alpine skiing," Kostelic said. "It's more valuable to me than super combined because you have to ski an entire downhill and both slaloms. Classic combined is purer."
Kostelic now leads the overall standings with 855 points over Hirscher's 725.
View video from Deville and Matt