A SCHLADMING REVIEW
As I was driving through Montana on my way to Jackson, Wyoming for the Western Region Elite Tech Series at Snow King, we were checking the FIS live timing to see how the Nachtslalom in Schladming was going. I know that hill and love that race. It is such a great experience being there and being in the hunt for a podium. It always seemed to elude us but we also always thought it was about to happen. Bode won a first run one time by 0.97 and then the snow picked up, just like this year. And Kostelic fell and got hurt right before Bode’s 2nd run causing a 20 minute delay. During that time, not one person slipped the course. There was no forerunner available and Benni Raich was winning the race. Take from that what you will, but that was the way we saw it. It might not have mattered but Bode did have a one second lead. But while Bode was waiting, at least 2 cm of snow fell, with no clearing of the snow over very slick injected ice. We moved from our places with some help from some other teams to try to move some snow when it was time. We did what we could but we could not get the layer of cream cheese off the ice. It turned into an incredibly peely layer that Bode could not grip on. He just slid around from gate 1 to gate 55. It was awful for him and for us to watch. But I will tell you, that the time that I grew all my respect for Bode Miller was that night. I was in the car with Phil McNichol, our Head Coach, when a short burst came from Bode on the radio. “Hey, Philly…you still there? Sorry man, I fucked that one up.” I know the language is not what we expect here but it was the real word, used as he felt. I still remember that night, obviously, and I still know why Bode is important to me. It’s because of that type of ownership he has always had over his performance. It is his; it has always been his and no one else’s. Win, lose or draw.
So back to the Schladming race. I am totally impressed with the improvement the Swedes have made over the last 2 years. Byggi for sure has calmed down his swinging block motion and obviously rededicated himself. He is such a good guy and it is great to see him doing well again. I love to see him enjoying the leader’s box and also enjoying when he is overtaken by his teammate. Andre Myhrer and Mathias Hargin have started to block through the gate to a pole plant or a pole flick rather than letting the hand slide up the pole. Their hard work is showing.
I am also glad to see Pranger up to his start routine. They need to show that stuff more on TV. The guy is crazy and he doesn’t care who knows. I watched him do his thing for years and nothing is more entertaining. He makes it work, so power to him. I also saw that he made a boot change to a newer model. I think that is a good move. Herbst is still in the old one and hanging on to success from 2006. But he is skiing from the heel and it looks like his ramp angle is extremely high. He is suffocating himself by tinkering with that stuff. He needs to get back to basics and find a level set up that works for him. It is too easy to get lost in that stuff and he needs to figure that out. And his coaches and service guys need to have that kind of intervention with him.
And before we get into the update on the season stuff, let me say that it was great to see Nolan Kasper, Dave Chodounsky and Ted all in the second run. And while Nolan was the only one to really make a move on run 2, it seems obvious that the slalom program is improving. Nice job, boys. Also, a big high-five to Will Brandenburg for the pass and Nolan for the catch in the finish area! But even better, the Heisman stance by Nolan was awesome and I am sure it was totally lost on our European brethren. Next time get that knee up and across to you can do the whole pose!
So Kostelic extended his lead to 432 points! While his slalom lead slipped to 96 points ahead of Grange. And watch Grange for the slalom globe. We have only Bansko, Kranjska and the finals in Lenzerheide left. We do not know what Bansko holds but Kranjska and Lenzerheide are good slalom specialist hills. There is also a great crowd for Ivica in Kranjska as the Croatian crowd will show in force as he is in the hunt. They are very vocal and show up in force. And in Lenzerheide, if it is a down to the wire thing, could bring the pressure to him. But, if he has the overall locked up, he will relax and then ski very well in the slalom. I thought it was interesting to watch him in the Schladming race. It is a race he dearly wants to win, and he looked tight on the second run, even though he should have had no pressure in coming from behind the leader. He was round and conservative and not going deep into the apex at all on the pitch.
Anyway, it was again a wonderful event in Schladming. That race is the reason I have been so sure that awarding the 2013 World Champs to them was the best thing skiing could do for alpine racing. It is the most amazing single night event on the calendar. Just watch the reaction of the guys in the finish. That race is important to them. They all are important but when there are 70,000 people there, you want to hear their cheers or shut them up.