Rebensburg takes GS lead with win in Ofterschwang
OFTERSCHWANG, Germany – In the warm spring sun and with a very loud and happy home crowd, 2011 World Cup champion Viktoria Rebensburg started out the day on top in the World Cup giant slalom Friday and ended the day the same way, edging world giant slalom champion Tina Maze by 0.06 seconds for the win.
“It’s a great feeling to win at home,” Rebensburg said. “There’s so much energy from the crowd and it’s wonderful. I didn’t have a good feeling on the course in the second run. I actually thought I was behind. But it turned out well.”
After leading the first run on the soft but stable course in Ofterschwang, the German crossed the finish line with a combined time of 2 minutes, 33.30 seconds. The victory was Rebensburg’s second of the season, following her win in Aspen. She also took second in Soelden and third in Kranjska Gora and now charges ahead in the GS standings, leading with 390 points as Tessa Worley, who was seventh Friday, now trails with 346.
Elisabeth Goergl is also still in the running for the GS globe with 281 points. On Friday the Austrian notched her third GS podium of the season, tying Italy’s Irene Curtoni for third place, 0.74 seconds back. Besides a crash in Kranjska Gora when she was blazing down the second run for the win, the worst finish Goergl has had in GS this season is seventh.
Curtoni was perhaps the happiest person in the sun at the end of the day. Friday marked her first career podium and she wiped tears from her eyes as she stood in the leader’s box with Goergl.
After a slow start to the season, Maze is surging forward in giant slalom with her second straight podium. This, she said, is due to reverting back to the skis that helped her earn the gold medal last season in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
“I’m skiing much better since I changed my skis. I found that rhythm for GS that I should have found before,” the Slovenian said. “I was trying to use longer skis at the start of the season. Then I went back on the world champion skis. It’s important for me to ski soft. I’m glad I can do that again.”
“Skiing soft” is one way to describe the necessary technique for a slope baking in nearly 10 degrees and spring sun. Rebensburg said the secret was not allowing one’s skis to wander outside of the track.
“It’s really important that you put the ski in the track,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re on the gate direct. You just have to ski in the track.”
The course itself held up remarkably well, as evidenced by Nadia Fanchini who, wearing bib No. 57, somehow skied to sixth place. The Italian re-entered the World Cup after a long recovery from injury in Kranjska Gora, but failed to qualify in that GS and also in the following race in Soldeu.
Skiing to 16th in the first run Friday, Fanchini put down by far the fastest second run (1:17.99) to land in sixth. Most of the Italians however, were directing their attention on Curtoni, who had the second fastest second run (1:18.23) and had only previously notched three top 10s on the World Cup, never having earned anything better than seventh.
“I always work so hard for this. Finally it came,” said Curtoni, who went to take her place on the podium several minutes before the flower ceremony even began. “I can’t believe it. I think before, ‘it’s not my slope, it’s flat and the snow is fast.’ But it means I can go fast everywhere.”
As mentioned before, going fast has been par for the course for Goergl this season. No matter the terrain, she has been amazingly consistent in GS.
“This course looks easy but it’s not easy,” Goergl said of Ofterschwang, where she also podiumed the last time the ladies World Cup stopped here in 2009. “It’s really rolly and you have to push every turn and ski on the limit, be smooth over the rolls. I have a good technique. I developed my technique from the last season to this. I keep skiing as good as I can. I think the level is really, really good in GS. It’s getting better and better every year.”
A couple of athletes got tripped up after the roll about midway down the course in the first run. Anna Fenninger, who began the day third in the GS standings, missed the gate after the roll and Maria Hoefl-Riesch slid onto her side and also ended up on the DNF list.
Sweden’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby notched the best GS race of her career Friday, firing down both runs with the best of them and barely missed the podium, ending up in fifth place, 0.76 seconds back. After Fanchini in sixth and Worley in seventh, Austrian Stefanie Koehle had another solid race in eighth, 1.25 seconds back. Julia Mancuso put down her best GS race since her podium in Aspen with a ninth place-finish Friday, 1.28 back and Lindsey Vonn, in spite of two near-crashes, still managed to land in 10th, 1.36 seconds back.
Vonn still has a very healthy lead in the overall World Cup standings. She has 1628 points, but Maze closed the gap a little bit Friday with her second place and now trails in the overall with 1154 points.
Friday’s GS race replaced the race originally scheduled for Courchevel in December, which was canceled due to heavy snowfall. It was first moved to Soldeu, Andorra, last month, where it was again canceled due to fierce wind.
Ladies racing continues with the original GS in Ofterschwang Saturday followed by slalom on Sunday.
by Shauna Farnell