Theaux wins last DH of the season, Cuche lands 4th career DH globe
The men's downhill race on Wednesday was a real thriller. Its main actors were the Swiss Didier Cuche and Austrian Michael Walchhofer, who led the downhill standings with 14 points going into the final race.
Walchhofer had more problems with the bumpy course, the relatively soft snow conditions and the flat light than the Swiss and raced to 11th place, while Cuche wearing bib number 22 and starting immediately after the Austrian, finished fourth. The veteran Swiss skier would have still won the discipline standings with a fifth place. In the end, the skier from Neuchatel wins with a 12 point-advantage over Walchhofer, capturing the small crystal globe for the fourth time in his career after 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The battle of the giants - Cuche against Walchhofer - has been going on for six seasons. Since 2005, the Swiss and the Austrian divide up the small discipline globes among each other. Walchhofer won the standings in 2005, 2006 and 2009, whilst Cuche dominated in the remaining years. With four little globes, the Swiss veteran is now the second-best skier of all times behind Franz Klammer, who heads the leaderboard with five victories. But the 36-year-old Cuche, who announced the continuation of his career on Tuesday at a media conference, can still tie this record.
"It was sort of a race within the race and it was difficult. I heard the audience cheering loudly and that encouraged me to go fast. The importance of this globe is certainly very high. I only started very late in my life to be fast and let's see, maybe it will continue this way next year, " Didier Cuche says smilingly while promising to fully attack again in the super G on Thursday.
Unlike Cuche, the 35-year-old Walchhofer will end his career at the end of this season. Today’s race was the last downhill competition of his career.
Although a bit disappointed, the retiring Michael Walchhofer paid his longtime Swiss rival tribute and celebrated his departure from the World Cup downhill slopes with standing ovation by the fair Swiss audience. "It was great to ski my last race in front of so many enthusiastic fans. I almost had to allow Didier Cuche to beat me today, "Walchhofer said jokingly and added:" Of course I was hoping that he would not have a perfect run as the conditions were really quite difficult. It is a pity that it did not work out for me, but my disappointment is limited,” Walchhofer said concludingly.
France’s Adrien Theaux won the downhill by the smallest possible margin of one hundredth of a second ahead of the Austrian newcomer Joachim Puchner. Norway's Aksel Svindal ended up in third place, 16 hundredths behind the winning time-and the same amount of seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Didier Cuche and Italy's Christof Innerhofer, who both tied for fourth.
The podium finishers Theaux, Puchner and Svindal carried the bib numbers 8, 3 and 11 and benefited from better conditions during the first part of the race. The favorites starting with later bibs were clearly at a disadvantage as the visibility deteriorated.
The 26-year-old from Val Thorens triumphed for the first time in his career, after he already stood on the podium twice this winter. In the super G in Beaver Creek, Theaux had finished second and in the downhill in Kitzbühel third. "Luck was definitely a bit on my side today. The visibility got worse over the course of the race,” Theaux said. Only a hundredth of a second separated the French skier from the only 23-year-old Austrian Joachim Puchner, who landed on the podium for the second time in his career after his third place finish in last weekend's super-G in Kvitfjell. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, the winner of the last World Cup downhill held in Lenzerheide in 2007, rounded out the podium.