Wind forces cancellation of the Val Gardena Downhill
VAL GARDENA, Italy- Saturday’s Downhill race in Val Gardena had to be cancelled after only 21 racers due to strong winds.
Already in the morning it was clear that wind might play a major role in the flow of the race. To minimize the chances of wind interfering with it, already in the morning a decision to lower the start to the SG one was made. It all seemed fine, the first racers making their way down without any problems. Johan Clarey was on his way of achieving his first World Cup victory, his teammate Adrien Theaux in second just 0.11 seconds behind and Patrick Kueng in third, .26 seconds slower than Clarey.
By the time Didier Cuche left the starting gate, the wind was already rather strong and mid-way his run, one could see it was playing a role on the final time. On the last jump, a gust of wind “moved” Cuche at least a meter and a half off the expected landing spot. This is when a first start stop was called. After a break, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, forerunners were resent down the course and the race was given a second go. Unfortunately only three more skiers were able to make their way down, before the decision that due to strong winds which were severely affecting the course of the race, the 2011 Saslong Downhill would be officially cancelled.
Klaus Kroell wearing bib number 21 was the last skier to leave the start gate and after the cancellation announcement was made, among the athletes there were a lot of mixed feelings about the decision.
As expected, the French team was the most disappointed. With skiers in first, second and fifth position, they were hit the hardest by the cancellation.
Clarey, whose only podium finish is a third place in the 2009 Val Gardena Downhill, stood a good chance to take home his first career victory. One could feel the disappointment in his voice, and due to the circumstances, it would have been unusual if it were any different.
“This is not the first time there was so much wind, it was not dangerous for the guys on the top. It’s cancelled and I don’t really know what to say. I’m just so disappointed right now; it’s going to take a long time for me to accept this,” Clarey said.
Didier Cuche, the last skier down before the first interruption was not happy with the weather.
“When you let the race go again, you can’t know if the wind is going to come again or not. I accept to be one of the guys to get mad today because of the wind, because 50 percent of the time I’m on the right side. Whatever happens next, I’m done; I’m in the finish and my day is over. My run was a pretty ok one, but you had to fight the conditions.”
Erik Guay was sitting in fourth when the race got cancelled and was of course unhappy to let go of a good result.
“It’s not fair, but it’s never fair. Lake Louise wasn’t fair, Beaver Creek wasn’t fair. There is always wind it’s an outdoor sport. Most of the time I agree with Hujara and his decisions (race referee), but on this particular one I don’t see the sense in cancelling this soon, although it made sense to wait to see the best guys come down.”
Birthday-boy, Christoph Innerhofer (turned 27 today) is still recovering from the concussion he suffered before the Lake Louise races.
“I’m sorry about the weather today, unfortunately this is not the first race where we had some irregular conditions. It’s windy and different for everybody, which is certainly not good," Innerhofer agreed with the other racers. “My feeling was ok, I had a mistake in the middle of the ‘Ciaslat’, and I lost a lot of speed. For sure I’m not yet ready to be there with the first, but I’m feeling better from race to race and I believe that in the next weeks I can be back with the best.”
“I’m a year more experienced, not a year older,” Innerhofer said jokingly. “The years are passing for me as well, but I hope I have still a lot of years in the World Cup, a lot of races and I sure hope to be up there with the best.”
Aksel Lund Svindal, one of the top contenders for this year’s Overall, felt the cancellation was a good call. Being one of the last skiers to start, with the wind already strong, he crossed the finish line in 14th place, 1.86 seconds off the leader. Certainly not the result he was looking for today.
“Depends from which prospective you are looking at the cancellation. If it’s fairness of the racing, than it was for sure the right decision. Safety- it depends how the wind is at the ‘Camels’, and for me there it was ok and the rest of the jumps were not very big. I think for all races like this, they either should be cancelled or shouldn’t count for the Cup standings. It’s too much of a lottery. You still have to ski well, but with certain numbers you don’t stand a chance no matter what. I think when a guy like Cuche is that far behind (2.43 seconds behind Clarey), it says everything."
In days like this, there is always going to be someone more and someone less affected by a cancellation. With plenty of races left this season, there will be a lot of chances for the skiers to show how fast they are. Hopefully the conditions on most of those races will be as fair and as even as possible for everyone, it sure makes it all more fun.
The men’s tour is moving over the pass to Alta Badia where a Giant Slalom (Sunday) and Slalom (Monday) are scheduled.
by Ana Jelusic