Saslong Classic Club / Gardena - Gröden
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Bryce Bennett Takes the Spotlight in the First Downhill Race in Val Gardena/Gröden


The initial speed race of the 56th Saslong Classic concluded with a significant surprise: Bryce Bennett, last year's underappreciated American skier, outperformed the entire field with bib number 34, securing his second victory in the World Cup.


Bryce Bennett and Val Gardena/Gröden seem to go hand in hand. Almost two years after his first and, until now, only World Cup victory at the foot of the Sassolungo/Langkofel, the 31-year-old claimed another triumph on Thursday in Val Gardena/Gröden, navigating a shortened course. Bennett capitalized on the excellent conditions on the Saslong, skiing sensationally in glorious sunshine, and narrowly surpassed the previous leader, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, by a mere three hundredths.

Kilde demonstrated precision in the sprint downhill, maintaining the lead for an extended period, thanks to an outstanding final section. Marco Odermatt secured the third position, trailing the Norwegian by a mere five hundredths. The reigning overall World Cup winner from Switzerland commenced the Val Gardena/Gröden race week with a podium finish, mirroring his performance from last year when he secured second place in the shortened downhill.

Notable Achievements for the "Azzurri"

While Frenchman Nils Allegre and Canadian James Crawford claimed the fourth and fifth positions, the Italian speed team delivered a solid collective performance before their home crowd. Although none of the Italian athletes achieved a top-tier result, five skiers finished in the top 20: Dominik Paris from Ulten (11th), Christof Innerhofer from Gais, and Mattia Casse (tied for 12th place), Florian Schieder from Kastelruth (15th), and Guglielmo Bosca (19th).

As anticipated, the sprint downhill unfolded as a tightly contested event. A closer examination of the results reveals the narrow gaps: the first ten racers were separated by just under half a second. Even a one-second gap was sufficient for a single World Cup point.

The second of three speed events is scheduled for Friday in Val Gardena/Gröden with the super-G, commencing at 11:45 am.

The complete list of results from Thursday's downhill can be found here.