Janka wins Beaver Creek super combined
By Eric Williams and Hank McKee/Ski Racing Magazine
It was a big day in Beaver Creek, Colorado. The highly-praised Birds of Prey course was put to the test as it endured nearly 140 runs by men's World Cup racers. First, an early-morning downhill training run in well below-freezing temperatures, followed by a Audi FIS World Cup super combined through the afternoon.
In the end it was Swiss Carlo Janka taking the super combined win and the overall World Cup points lead with a combined time of 2:32.26, as cloud cover and a setting sun made light conditions tough for the entire field. Janka's teammate Didier Defago was .43 seconds behind in second place. Croatia's Natko Zrncic-Dim rounded out the podium in third with a combined time of 2:32.75. It was Janka's third career win after winning a GS at Val d'Isere and the combined at Wengen last season. It was also his third podium this season.
"Things are going really well, my form is right in almost every discipline. (But) the season is long, so the World Cup lead means nothing," said Janka. "I am still not 100percent," he continued, "but enough to win races."
Zrncic-Dim up held the honor of Croatia with a podium placing after his better known teammate Ivica Kostelic was not allowed to start when the first downhill training run, here, was ruled to not count. Skiers must complete at least one training run in order to race. He moved from 14th to third with the fastest slalom leg. "I'm ready," said Zrncic-Dim when asked if Croatia was ready for a skiing champion not named Kostelic. "I don't know for Croatia, but I had some good results already, some podiums, so I think now it's my skiing coming better and better. I hope this season will be the best for me."
Last season's World Cup slalom title winner, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Grange, made a case for himself with a 23rd-place finish in the downhill, within two seconds of the leader, a reachable distance for the slalom specialist who capitalized on his slalom skills and finished just off the podium in fourth with a time of 2:32.83.
Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, last season's World Cup overall title winner, had a strong showing in sixth place as he continues to return from an October leg bruise.
The U.S. crowd of thousands had more reasons to groan than cheer as two of three American racers (Ted Ligety and Bode Miller) failed to complete the slalom portion of the race. Ligety straddled a gate and Miller fell hard near the 30th gate after giving his competitors a scare, coming out of the downhill in seventh place.
"In order to finish fast in slalom you have to go aggressive and that's the approach I was taking," Ligety said. "I'm glad I'm skiing fast it's just annoying not to make the finish."
The Swiss team dominated the downhill portion of the event with the nine bib, Defago (1:44.19) leading the way for a dominant Swiss team that grabbed the top-four fastest time in the downhill run. Teammates Didier Cuche (1.44.44) was right behind followed by Janka (1:44.51) in third and Patrick Kueng (1:44.85) in fourth.
The speed specialists got one more chance to train on the Birds of Prey course with an early-morning training run in below-freezing temperatures. Most racers came down with either facemasks or tape on their faces to fight the record low temperatures.
Austrian Michael Walchhoffer continued to look strong taking the day's fastest downhill training run time (1:45.04), followed by Canadian Robbie Dixon (1:45.18) and Frenchman Yannick Bertrand (1:45.20).
Frenchman Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin, in the 13 bib, fell near the bottom of the course and was taken off the course in a toboggan. Early reports indicated he suffered a broken forearm and facial lacerations.
Under demanding conditions the course held up extremely well. "It is something we all dreamed of that we can get conditions and race organization and race conditions like we have here, now," said FIS chief race director Gunther Hujara in last night's team captains meeting after an ideal downhill training run. "And always thinking under the conditions that money does not lay anywhere on the ground and these people are investing such great efforts in our sport and I think they deserve a huge, huge big, big hand."
Audi FIS Ski World Cup competition in Beaver Creek continues tomorrow (Dec. 5) with a men's downhill. There will be a men's World Cup giant slalom the following day (Dec. 6).