Hoelzl wins again; Italian team strong in Lienz
Most of the fastest racers in the first run dropped speed one after another in the final run of the women's World Cup giant slalom in Lienz, Austria, on Monday but German Kathrin Hoelzl held onto her lead and claimed her second win of the season by .05 seconds.
Italian Manuela Moelgg was very close to her first World Cup victory, tying teammate Federica Brignone for 12th after the first run and putting down the fastest second run of the day, 1.19 seconds faster than Hoelzl's to take second place. French tech specialist Taina Barioz earned her first World Cup podium, finishing just .06 seconds behind Moelgg and .11 seconds behind Hoelzl.
Hoelzl, who is the defending world GS champion, said the slope was similar to that in Aspen, where she landed her first World Cup win earlier this season, and that her .41-second lead in the first run was the formula for victory in Lienz.
"My first run was perfect, I did almost every gate like I wanted," Hoelzl said. "The second run wasn't so good, but I skied OK and I am very happy to win."
When asked if winning feels like a normal turn of events now that she has two under her belt early in the season, Hoelzl said it is still a pleasant surprise.
"I don't think it's normal, but it is nice," she said. "I think it will give me confidence going into the Olympics."
As the light got flat in the afternoon, top racers from the first run had trouble holding their speed in the second. Michaela Kirchgasser, who was second after the first run, ended up 10th, and Tina Maze, who was fourth after the first run and leading during the first half of the second, also lost speed coming into a flat on the middle of the course and ended up eighth. Moelgg said holding speed coming into the last break over in the second run was the recipe for success.
"I ski very well in the middle so I'm very happy," Moelgg said. "In the middle, it's steep and then flat. I ski well the two gates before that flat so that's the secret. I hope tomorrow I'm skiing so well in the slalom."
The Italians, who consider Lienz their home hill, were the stars of the day with six racers finishing in the top 20.
Brignone, who had never finished in the top 10 on the World Cup before her GS podium in Aspen last month, had the second fastest second run time and finished fourth, the same finish as her last GS result in Are.
"I just missed the third place. I would like to win and not just be fourth, but I am happy for the season and for our team," she said. "We are friends. Together we are a good group. We know this place well. It's fun for us to be on top. Maybe we have seen something that the others missed."
Moelgg agreed that the Italian team is tight and said Denise Karbon, who was 17th Monday in her first race since minor knee surgery last month, is her best friend and roommate on the World Cup tour.
Barioz, whose only other World Cup top 10s previous to Lienz were a fourth place in last season's GS in Are and a fifth in Cortina, said there was no special formula to maintaining speed in the second run. She was in third place following the first run and was one of few to hang onto her lead.
"I think there is no secret," Barioz said. "I was OK at the middle but to win you have to be good on the whole slope. You have to be relaxed and give the best. I just tried to ski like I do in training. I think it's very imporatnt to not think about the results. This is a big achievement for me because I have worked hard."
World Cup overall leader Lindsey Vonn crashed hard at the bottom of the first run and went to the hospital with an injured left arm. U.S. Team representatives said she suffered a bone bruise and that her arm is in a splint but she is planning on racing in Tuesday's slalom.
by Shauna Farnell / www.skiracing.com