WOMEN’S COMBINED AT GARMISCH. MEN’S DH TOMORROW!
The women went off on the combined in Garmisch with another nice day. But the warm temperatures are starting to take their toll on the hills. There was an obvious slush layer on the surface from top to bottom today and the areas outside the line are starting to look dirty from the melt-down. According to www.snow-forecast.com, the weather will remain warm at the bottom of the hill and will get some cooler temperatures from mid-mountain to the top. But that warm weather could be a problem by the end of the week with the hills getting repeatedly beaten on by both DH races and combis. Then the GS races will need to be on those hills as well. Also, the slalom arena is on the Partenkirchen side of town near the jumping stadium and will definitely need some attention as the week goes by. There is a serious possibility that the organizers and FIS will need to resort to chemicals or salt to help keep the snow firm enough to have a fair and safe race.
So after watching the DH portion of the combi it became obvious that the snow softened and the women were more able to deal with the tougher, turnier sections of the hill and were able to stay on line a little better and were able to stay in the course without major mistakes when they got late. Some things I took from the DH portion was that even though many of the true downhillers treated it as a training run, it was a competitive run that reveals a little more than a normal training run. So it showed that Liz Goergl is a real threat to win the DH along with Maria and Lindsey as long as their health comes around. Also Gisin, Paerson and Fenninger showed very well as did Laurenne Ross of the USA. Julia was solid again and of course will compete for a podium in the DH as she always does at the big shows.
But back to the combined, and besides giving us 3 more medals (Fenninger, Tina Maze and Paerson). It allowed us a look at the slalom hill and who might be a strong contender in the slalom event. And aside from the slalom specialists that will be there to make their presence felt, it was obvious that Niki Hosp will be able to make a run at the podium. She was way ahead of everyone else in the race by winning the run by 1.3 or so over some very solid slalom girls and she has one run on the hill this week where others like Schild, Poutiainen, etc. do not have that chance. Again, congratulations to Anna Fenninger of Austria for her first-ever World Championship medal, and a gold one it is!
The Men had a DH training run today in the melting conditions which definitely changed the perspective of the guy and how they can attack the hill. And while we never raced at Garmisch in 2009 at the World Cup, we were there for 2 training runs before the Downhill was canceled due to fog. But many of the guys who are at the World Championships did get 2 runs down the hill in 2009 before we packed up and drove to the World Champs in Val d’Isere that season. The men will race the Downhill tomorrow which we know is truly the marquee race of the event.
Cuche, obviously. He needs to be the favorite. He dominated Kitzbuehel and Chamonix coming into the big event and I just don’t know how you can pick against him. Adrien Theaux won the run and has had some very strong finishes of late, but I am hesitant to pick him in a big event. He has shown almost nothing in his career in World Championship events. He was 5th in Val d’Isere but that was a much different course. Svindal was 3rd today and could very much be a player on this hill. He seems to be a bit tentative these days and might be a little banged up from some rumors that are going around. But he is a big-game guy with a lot of experience.
One guy I think everyone will need to watch is Andrej Jerman (SLO). He has had great success in Garmisch on the old hill in 2007 with 2 podiums that year. He also has won in Bormio which has the same kind of grueling feeling as the new hill in Garmisch. The one last thing I will say about Jerman, and this might sound silly to many of you, but the snow in Garmisch has always felt similar to me as the snow we encounter in Slovenia. Low elevations, a lot of freeze and thaw conditions throughout the winter and high humidity all contribute to this opinion. And I think this helps Jerman at this venue.
Innerhofer is the man we need to watch closely. He won the Super G, he won the first training run and clearly took his foot off the pedal about half way down today. I think he is the favorite. No pressure with a gold medal in his pocket already. I am picking him to win.
Kroell has been a winner this year. Walchhofer opened the season with a win and is a Downhiller’s Downhiller. He can punch one in at any time. Hannes Reichelt is in the race which I think is interesting as is Romed Baumann. I like both of those guys but looking at it on paper, I am not impressed with the depth the Austrians are bringing to this event in DH. I See Kroell as a threat. Walchhofer has crashed so many times in Garmisch, albeit not on this hill, that it must be in his head. Reichelt is a Super G guy and Baumann is a great skier but with little DH experience. I think they will be shut out from the podium.
Erik Guay was 4th today and could definitely contend for a medal. But he is really carrying the full weight of his team and nation as he is the only athlete with a lot of top-end experience at the event. Jan Hudec is starting as well but with a history of a lot of injuries, he will need to overcome a ton to be able to compete for the top spots. The Canadians also start World Cup rookie Ben Thomsen who has had a great rookie campaign on the World Cup. But I think this might be too much for him as he gains needed experience.
So Bode is on fire coming in. He had a nice show in Kitz and Hinterstoder and seems happy and calm. I am very happy for him in that he took some time off in the middle of the winter to visit his daughter and I think that gives him a chance. If I were him, I would schedule that break every year and get healthy. His body has been beat up for years and it really gives him a chance to progress through the end of the season. And the big events are really all he has. It is very hard to get motivated day after day and year after year for a regular race. It sounds trivial to say such a thing but it is true. After a while, the gloss gets rubbed off the regular World Cup races. Then all that matters when you are 34 or older are the Championships and Kitzbuehel. Or maybe something you have never won before. It is for real to have that kind of approach, and Bode will turn 34 this year. He is no longer a young buck on the tour. He is an elder statesman. Bode has a chance and I would think he would get into the top 3 with a good run and a little luck. I am in his corner on this one. We will also start Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong, not filling our quota. It is a pretty dark day in USA Men’s skiing when we cannot field a full team in DH at the World Championships. It is mostly due to injury but I also feel like we should put someone in there. Ted is focusing on other stuff but why not Biesemeyer? Or Wiley Maple? Why not Brandenburg or Fisher? I know they have not earned it, but who is at fault? The prep period? The equipment? Staff? Injuries? All of the above? I just don’t believe in leaving quota spots open based on principle. Get someone in there and get the experience. Next season the boys will be in Garmisch for a speed event so why not get someone else down the track? I am sure they have their reasons but I am sure it is about holding it over the athlete’s heads because no one qualified. That is unfortunate but not forward-thinking at all.
Regardless, Bode has a chance, as does Steven on any given day. Travis is a damn good skier with a lot of guts but is likely a few years from competing for a medal.
My Podium for the Men’s DH? File it on www.fantasyskiracer.com!
Innerhofer, Cuche, Jerman. Miller will be 4th and barely out of the podium.