The 54th Saslong Classic inspires the international ski circuit
Shortly before Christmas, the Saslong Classic Club hosted the best Alpine ski racers for the 54th time as part of the Val Gardena/Gröden Speed Classic. Despite the difficult conditions, the organizers around President Rainer Senoner put together an excellently organized race week and once again provided an outstanding sporting event.
This year the traditional event in Val Gardena/Gröden was all about the return of the spectators to the finish stadium and along the Saslong. Everything on and off the race track was carefully prepared, so that the organizers of the World Cup offered all fans, athletes and staff a safe environment even in difficult COVID times.
The OC worked hard to ensure a fitting atmosphere with their well thought-out arrangements, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Bryce Bennett provided the athletic excellence with their respective victories in super-G and downhill. Also the weather cooperated beautifully on the competition days - all training runs, super-G and downhill races could be held regularly and under gorgeous blue skies and in perfect conditions.
The start of the race week in Val Gardena/Gröden was made with the first downhill training on Wednesday. Last year's downhill runner-up, James Cochran-Siegle from the USA, left all the competition behind. In the final training on Thursday, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde clocked the fastest time making a first statement confirming his role as favorite for the classic on Saturday.
Favorites win in super-G, a surprise in Downhill
Things finally got serious on Friday when the first World Cup points were awarded in the super-G. In the first of the two speed races, Kilde lived up to his great expectations and bagged his fourth triumph in Val Gardena/Gröden with an impressive athletic performance. Behind the Norwegian, two racers from the Austrian team, Matthias Mayer from Carinthia and the winner of the super-G of 2019, Vincent Kriechmayr, completed the podium. South Tyrolean Dominik Paris, put down a convincing race finishing in sixth place as the best local racer.
After the favorite's victory in the super-G, the downhill classic ended with a big surprise on Saturday. The American Bryce Bennett seized the opportunity at the highlight of the race week claiming his first victory in the World Cup with a bold performance. The other podium finishers were Otmar Striedinger from Austria and Niels Hintermann - two other racers who were not necessarily expected to be in the top positions. Local favorite Dominik Paris also placed in the top field in the downhill and finished fourth. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, on the other hand, was one of the tragic heroes: The Norwegian, who had started as the undisputed top favorite, was eliminated after a superior best intermediate time capturing no points one day after his victory in the super-G.
Bennett also snatches the special prize
With his triumph in the downhill, Bryce Bennett also crowned himself winner of the special prize DOLOMITES Val Gardena Südtirol Ski Trophy. The 29-year-old scored 100 points during the Val Gardena/Gröden race week - on par with super-G winner Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. Since in the event of a tie the victory goes to who has the better result in the downhill, the American narrowly beats defending champion Kilde and is celebrated as the most successful racer of the Val Gardena-Gröden race week.
As the winner of the DOLOMITES Val Gardena Südtirol Ski Trophy, Bennett can look forward to an original 3D wooden bust, as well as extra prize money of Euros 5,000 and a short vacation to South Tyrol.