Karbon leads in Maribor
Denise Karbon leads the standings after the first run of the giant slalom in Maribor, Slovenia. The Italian recorded a time of 1:21.66, which she will be looking to defend later on in the afternoon.
Tina Maze put her home snow advantage to great use as she finished with a time of 1:21.75, 9/100 of a second behind Karbon. The Slovenians performance was one of the biggest surprises in the morning race, to the delight of the crowd.
Manuela Moelgg was the race starter with a time of 1:21.89, who despite a slight stumble mid- course, managed to recover well enough and finished the first session third.
Conditions for the morning run were quite clement; there was little or no wind to hamper competitors, and little to disrupt the racers field of vision. The only, slight, handicap was the ever present shade.
The race had been prepared by the Austrian coach, and hid a spiteful surprise for the unwary. Half way down the run the gradient changed suddenly, requiring already tired athletes to dig deeper into their reserve of grit. Only the truly determined managed to conquer the Maribor descent.
Katrin Hoelzl finished 27/100 of a second behind the reigning champ, with a time of 1:21.93, enough to put the German fourth at the end of the first run.
The change in rhythm half way down took GS world rankings leader, Tanja Poutiainen, by surprise as she came down 30/100 of a second behind Karbon, on 1:21.96. The World Cup rankings number two finished fifth.
Up and coming Swiss star Lara Gut's gung ho attempt to challenge Karbon's lead saw her post a time of 1:22.73, just over a second behind the Italian, and enough to put her in position to challenge in the afternoon.
Promising French skier Tessa Worley was another to underestimate the nasty change in gradient, and finished with a time of 1:22.76, ending in ninth spot.
Anja Paerson managed a time of 1:23.01, over a second and a half behind Denise Karbon, but things could have been both far better and far worse for the veteran Swedish skier. Paerson had been on track for a very competitive finish, when she momentarily lost control of her skies, but managed to recover impeccably to earn a spot in the final run.
Lindsey Vonn finished with a time of 1:23.04, not enough to put her in contention for the leadership in the first run, but enough to get her through to the afternoon run
Katrin Zettel, number two in the discipline rankings, did not have the best of runs, finishing with a time of 1:23.08.
Mateja Robnik was another minor surprise when she finished with a time of 1:22.89, giving her every chance to be competitive in the final run. The second home town skier finished the first run in tenth spot.
World Cup leader Maria Riesch finished just outside the top 15, with a time 1:23.21. Although the giant slalom is not her speciality, she will need to do better in the afternoon if she wishes to stay atop the rankings.
Olympic champion Julia Mancuso has yet to find her best form this season, and her poor run continued, finishing almost 3 seconds off the pace with a time of 1:24.63 and outside the top 20.
Oddly enough there were no Austrian skiers in the top ten after the first run; the best of the Wunderteam was Katrin Zettel 14th, with Elisabeth Georgl 16th. Another major surprise, considering it was the Austrian coach who shaped the descent.
The final run is scheduled to take place at 12:15, and by then the sun should be high in the sky, removing the one natural obstacle competitors had to face.