Kroell on top of a really tight Chamonix Downhill

03 February 2012 12:53

CHAMONIX, France- Friday’s first Downhill in Chamonix brought quite some excitement to the spectators. With a time of 2 minutes, 04.22 seconds Klaus Kroell took home the top spot on the podium. Bode Miller landed in second place, 0.01 seconds behind Kroell while Didier Cuche unfortunately didn’t manage a hat trick; he rounded the podium in third, .04 seconds slower then the winning time.

On a cold morning where up until half an hour before the race it was hard to tell if it would be possible to start from the top, the sun showed up right in time to give skiers some good visibility. The replacement of the Saslong race run in conditions much more equal than we saw in Val Gardena.

After seven Downhills this season, the Austrian team finally got their man on the top step of the podium.

“It was so, so tight in the finish,” Kroell said. “ I was really happy when I realized I was on the right side of the one hundreds, four hundreds and eight hundreds. I made a mistake at the top and knew I had to risk everything on the bottom section.  I have to be grateful for my technician, he made an amazing job with my skis and I was able to make up a lot of time in the bottom section. In the end I was the lucky one.”

With another Downhill race scheduled in Chamonix on Saturday, Kroell thinks there are a few things he could improve from today’s performance.

“I don’t really plan to go with the same strategy tomorrow, I hope to avoid the mistakes I did on top and ski the same as I did today at the bottom. If I manage to do that, we will see what could come out of it,” Kroell commented on his plans for Saturday.

You win some, you loose some and when the difference between those two is a mare .01 second, it’s never fun to be the second best. It was Bode Miller’s turn to be on the “wrong” side of things.

“The speed this year is really low which makes the slope not too demanding.  All I tried to do is hold my position and relied on my technician have some fast stuff and to do a good job with my skis on the bottom section. A hundred is somewhere out there- it could have been a million places where I could have lost that,” he said about that .01 seconds.

Being so close to a victory and having another race coming in 24 hours, Miller wants to find a way to make up some time.

“I guess I definitely learned that tomorrow I have to ski a little bit faster,” he said. “I lost the line on the top section a few times; I always try and use my athleticism to hassle. I really have to take a risk up there to challenge those guys out there. I am always prepared to take a risk; it’s one of my strengths anyway. I am just going to try to be a little bit more on the spot; the bottom section is where I loose time here every year.”

After his 19 impressive seasons on the Tour the big question these past days was whether Didier Cuche could achieve his first career’s hat trick. He is the only skier who was able to win Kitzbuchel five times, stood on the podium of almost all the major DH races. He was fastest in the only disputed training and won the Chamonix race last season.

“There was a lot of fresh snow on the course, you had to follow the track and try not to go out of it in the glide section,” Cuche said. “In the top section, I didn’t ski really good. Some other guys were really strong there. I’ll have to watch today’s video in order to see what I can make better for tomorrow.”

With four DH races left until the end of the season- every point matters and Cuche is well aware of that. He is still in the lead of the discipline standings but after today’s victory Kroell is in second place, only 30 points behind. If Cuche would manage to keep the lead until the end of the season, it would be his fifth DH Crystal Globe. That would put him right next to one of the all-time greatest, Franz Klammer.

“It’s really tight in the race for the globe this year. In this race Kroell got 100 points, I got only 60 and those 40 points are really important. It will be an interesting fight until the end and skiracing should be like that, also for the people watching it on television.”

With the weather improving as the race went on, there were a few new names that sneaked in the top 30. Benjamin Thomsen crossed the finish line in 11th position, coming from bib 50.Two Americans, Erik Fisher and Travis Ganong followed him in 12th and 13th place starting from bibs 34 and 36 respectively.

Interesting enough, apart from the podium being extremely close, the top 30 skiers down the ‘Verte des Houches’ slope were all squeezed in within 1.49 seconds.

Joachim Puchner from Austria who got seventh only .35 behind Kroell saw a bit of irony in it.

“Last year I was fourth here,” Puchner said. “But I was some .91 seconds behind Cuche who won the race. This year I was quite a bit closer to the winning time and I ended up in a worse place. You never know how things can turn out in this sport.”

Another Downhill race is scheduled for Saturday, start time 12.00.

Here you can check the full results from Friday’s race.

Watch the video of the top three skiers.

Or, enjoy some of today's highlights.

by Ana Jelusic