Reichelt Leads 1-2 Austrian Finish in Hinterstoder
HINTERSTODER, AUSTRIA – World Cup ski racing returned to the picturesque village of Hinterstoder and the throngs of fans got exactly what they came for on what was a gorgeous late morning in Austria. The 2008 super-G champion, Hannes Reichelt delivered a superb effort on the long and sinuous “Hannes Trinkl” course to claim his first victory of the season.
The 30-year-old Reichelt, who has battled various injuries over the past few seasons, clocked a time of 1:43.91 on the lengthy 2116-meter super-G track. Despite aggressive efforts by countryman Benjamin Raich and America’s Bode Miller, Reichelt’s time would hold up for his fifth career World Cup victory.
“The last few years were not so easy for me, so to come back on the podium with a victory, I’m happy about the result today and fortunately to be here in Austria, it’s beautiful,” said Reichelt in the finish area.
"It has not been easy for our team over the last few weeks with so many injurieds," said Reichelt referring to recent crashes and season-ending injuries to Hans Grugger, Mario Scheiber and Georg Streitberger. "To keep it out of the head is hard, but if you are on the course you can't think about that. Good luck to our guys to get back on the slopes again."
The veteran Raich, who has found the podium only once previous this season – at a slalom in Val d’Isere, where he finished second – was ahead of Reichelt at the first two intermediate times, but faded slightly on the lower section ultimately finishing second, 0.34 seconds behind.
“It was a very technical super-G and normally that suits me very well as I showed today,” said Raich. “But also in Gröden, I was very fast, but it was much faster and easier than here,” he said about his fourth place super-G result in December.
Following tomorrow's giant slalom, Raich will head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to compete in his seventh World Championships. The Austrian has garnered seven medals with his two golds both coming in Bormio, Italy in 2005.
"Being on the podium today is very important for my self-confidence," said the 32-year-old racer. "I'm really looking forward to Garmisch."
Leaving the starthouse just prior to Raich and six places after Reichelt posted his leading time, the USA’s Miller crushed the upper section of the course and was ahead by 0.50 seconds at the second interval. However, Miller lost significant time on the lower section of the sun-drenched course. The 33-year-old American – who finished second at the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel a few weekends ago – settled for third, 0.93 slower than Reichelt.
Despite what was overall a fairly solid run compared to his competitors, Miller was not satisfied with his skiing.
"It felt like absolutely a terrible run. It just didn't feel good even the part on the top where I was ahead by quite a bit," said the five-time American Olympic medalist. "It still felt really bad. The turns felt bad, like I didn't have any good pressure under the foot. I was working hard and I definitely tried hard to go straight. Maybe it was a combination of the snow, my set-up and the hill. The snow was not always the same."
Following one costly error approaching the bottom of the piste, Miller was just 14th overall between the final split and the finish.
"I think the part that mattered most was where Reichelt beat everybody so badly coming onto the flats," continued Miller. "It shouldn't have been so hard. I didn't do anything special and just skied normal, but coming onto the flats I just fell inside, lost my outside ski and touched my hand and hip to the ground. It's so flat after that you lose 5-6 kilometers-per-hour and it costs you a second over the next 20 seconds."
After skipping last weekend's races in Chamonix, France, last season's overall World Cup champion, Carlo Janka skied well finishing fourth, 1.15 second behind.
One of the surprise showings of the day belonged to 19-year-old Frenchman, Alexis Pinturault. Starting 62nd of 69 competitors, the young French racer was shockingly ahead of Reichelt's time at the first two intermediate splits. Eventually, Pinturault crossed the line in sixth, 1.24 behind. Considering the late start number, it was surely one of the best performances of the day.
Ivica Kostelic further strengthened his position as overall World Cup leader. The recently dominant Croatian placed fifth, 1.19 seconds off Reichelt’s pace. With the highly respectable performance, he increased his overall lead to 520 points over Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen, who opted not to race this weekend. Zurbriggen’s countryman, Didier Cuche, who surprisingly finished a disappointing 19th, is third overall, 538 behind Kostelic.
Tomorrow, a giant slalom is on the slate for Hinterstoder. American Ted Ligety seeks his fourth GS victory in just the fifth race of the discipline this season.
-By Brian Pinelli
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