CUCHE IS THE CHAMP, VONN TAKES THE LEAD, JULES ENDS A DROUGHT
It was quite a day in Lenzerheide, Switzerland today. Didier Cuche locked up the Downhill Title, Lindsey Vonn went into the lead with another Riesch meltdown and Julia Mancuso won her first World Cup race since a Downhill win in Tarvisio four years ago.
Cuche locked up the title today with a little help from Walchhofer. Cuche finished 4th in a tie with Christof Innerhofer while Walchhofer could only manage 11th place on the Pista Silvano Beltrametti. For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, Silvano is a former Swiss Ski Team rising star that was paralyzed in a crash in 2001 in Val d’Isere. He was 22 when he crashed 9 seasons ago. The track in Lenzerheide was named after Silvano when it was built for the finals in 2005. Silvano attends the race in Lenzerheide every year and sits in his wheelchair in his place of honor in the finish area. The win went to Adrien Theaux and Joachim Puchner of Austria was second with Aksel Svindal grabbing the last step on the podium. Theaux and Puchner are names we are going to have to get used to being near the top. But the day, and season, belongs to Cuche. By now, they have long-since handed out the downhill crystal and the winners teams are doing a little celebrating. Hopp Schweiz or I guess Hop Suisse for Cuche.
The Riesch scoring slump continued yesterday as she finished outside the points. In the last three starts, she has scored two points. That is 2, the number. In that time, of which two starts were in slalom and GS, Lindsey has scored 125 and has taken the lead in the overall chase. She now has a 27 point lead with Super G tomorrow. I am sure Lins is feeling confident and Maria is not but this should go down to the last run on the last day. The girls have Super G tomorrow, followed by slalom and then GS. I am sure Lins would like to put some more pressure on Maria with an outright win tomorrow and maybe getting more help from a struggling ski racer. Right now, all things are basically equal and Maria has allowed it to happen. She has not been able to get out of her own way since Garmisch started and has pretty much lost her way. Someone needs to be there to help her bring her head back into it. If she pulls another non-scoring result tomorrow, she might as well hand it to Lindsey. And, IF Lindsey is able to come all the way back to win the overall, it tells you a lot about the make-up of the two rivals. On another small note that most people do not pay attention to, this meltdown by Maria and a few of the other Germans, has allowed the USA to move into 2nd place in the Women’s FIS Nations Cup race with over 3400 points so far. That is an impressive total.
The race itself was won by Julia Mancuso, who won her first World Cup since March 2007, marking a comeback season of sorts. While Jules had a great Olympics last year, her point totals were not great. Her last “great” season was in 2007 when she scored 1356 points and finished 3rd in the standings. Right now, she stands 5th with 976 points and a great chance to go over 1000 points for only the second time in her career. Jules is a natural talent who has been very inconsistent over the years. It almost seems like it is connected to her motivation at that moment. That energy level is the deciding factor for her success. Her talent is unquestioned, her consistency with her effort level, intensity and work ethic are often questioned. She is gifted, but she is not yet a professional. Now, going on 27 years old, she has had one of her best seasons ever. It will be interesting to see if she will be willing to work harder this summer than ever before with specific World Cup success in mind. Her other season when she went over 1000 points was the year after the 2006 Olympics and the last time she won a World Cup. So what will happen next? A steady slide into 2013 with fewer and fewer points and then rise again in 2014 to win medals in Sochi? I hope not. I hope she can find a way to sustain this effort and bring herself into the conversation for the overall and one of the individual discipline globes. I hope she is feeling a little urgency for her career as she turns the corner towards her thirties. At the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, her 30th birthday will be less than a month away. In short, I truly think she can compete for the Overall if she can put in the consistent effort year-round and season to season.
Other notes: Lara Gut returned to the podium, albeit almost a second out. Junior champ Lotte Smiseth Sejersted was 5th for her first top 10 of her career. Stacey Cook finished 9th to solidify her 3rd best downhill season by points of her career. Ok, ladies and gentlemen, the World Cup Downhill season is in the books and there is a Super G tomorrow to bring that one to a close. The men’s Super G globe is led by Cuche by quite a bit but with 7 guys within a mathematical chance of winning the globe. Streitberger and Kostelic are really the only two with a chance to overtake him. There is a chance of light rain and snow in Lenzerheide tonight into tomorrow according to www.snow-forecast.com and hopefully the track and visibility will allow the races to happen. Best of luck!
World Cup Finals SG Canceled.
The SG cancelation handed Cuche his second globe in 2 days and put some pressure back on Vonn to hold onto her lead in the Women's overall.
The globe races are fought over a season so a singular cancellation is not a big deal in the scheme of things. Cuche earned it, he won it.
But on the women's side, it really changes the race for the overall. Lindsey would have much preferred to race Super G today and put a little more distance on Maria who is struggling mightily. Maria was awful yesterday and the combination of the hill, poor light and conditions intimidated her. She would have gone into today's race intimidated as well and likely would have skied poorly again. But now we move on. Lindsey skied well in Spindleruv and reeled in Maria bit in two technical disciplines. But Lenzerheide is NOT Spindl. The GS hill at Lenzerheide is very steep out of the start, as is the slalom hill. If they get some night-time freezing, it could be a very tough hill for both girls.