Val Gardena/Gröden provides a week of highlights
The 51st edition of the men's speed races on the Saslong is history. Organizers, FIS and athletes can look back on a very well organized race week that continued on Tuesday with the ladies’ World Cup competitions in Val Gardena/Gröden.
In 2018, Val Gardena/Gröden was once again ready and showed itself from its best side for the ski World Cup: Excellent weather, a packed entertainment program with numerous great guests and exciting races made the World Cup week on the Saslong an unforgettable extravaganza once again. Thousands of spectators wanted to be part of the super-G and downhill races lining up along the course and filling the finish area.
Both trainings without major incidents
After the official opening by the team captains’ meeting on Tuesday, the first training took place on Wednesday which was led by American Travis Ganong. This was followed by the second and last training run for Saturday’s downhill which was won by the Austrian Max Franz. There were no interruptions or problems on both Wednesday and Thursday - all athletes found excellent external conditions and a perfectly groomed course during the trainings reaching the finish safe and sound.
Super-G and downhill firmly in Norwegian hands
The actual races started with the men's Super-G on Friday. This discipline was held for the 17th time this year, ending with an eighth victory for a Norwegian. "Saslong King" Aksel Lund Svindal impressed with a flawless race and left local hero Christof Innerhofer behind by just a few hundredths of a second. A thrilling race. This was already the seventh victory for the experienced Norwegian in Val Gardena/Gröden - no other racer has been more successful than him. Svindal's team-mate Kjetil Jansrud completed the podium in third place in bright sunshine and temperatures slightly below zero.
The absolute highlight of the race week, the classic downhill on Saturday, also took place in full sunshine. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde found the best line and prevailed by a large margin ahead of the Austrian Max Franz and the Swiss Beat Feuz. Unfortunately, the race was overshadowed by a heavy crash of Swiss skier Marc Gisin due to a skiing error. The 30-year-old crashed at the Camel Humps and had to be taken away by medevac.
A time to make friends
Off the course, there was also a lot on offer for the many fans and media representatives in Val Gardena/Gröden. For the first time, the bib draw for the Super-G was part of a public celebration. At the festive events in Selva/Wolkenstein and Ortisei/St.Ulrich, spectators had the opportunity to experience their stars up close and some even got the opportunity to capture one ore more selfies with their favorite skiers.
New this year was also the "Vitalini Speed Contest". After the super-G, 120 very young athletes born in 2007 and 2008 challenged each other in a race on the final schuss of the Saslong in which their top speed was measured in a stretch of 150 meters.
On the eve of the downhill, the "Ski World Cup Christmas Party" took place in the "Saslounge", the finish area of the World Cup course - a celebration in an exclusive setting and sporting flair. Also not to be missed was the traditional fan parade on Saturday morning, in which 10 fan clubs took part parading from S. Cristina to the finish area of the Saslong with bells and trumpets. The winner of the parade was for Oti Striedinger.
Premiere: Women's Ski World Cup on the Saslong
For the Organizing Committee, the race week continued. Two ladies’ races were added to the traditional men's races. In just a few hours, the races were planned in the Ladin valley. The whole team managed to make two perfect races possible for the ladies. Some even expressed the wish that these races should take place every year in Val Gardena/Gröden.
The Saslong under the magnifying glass
It is a course that contains everything: steep slopes, jumps, technical sections and fast passages. This year, the great challenge was accepted to adapt the men's course for ladies’ races. The track was shortened and the start lowered to just above Sochers. It started out with a flatter passage and then built up speed. Also, the Camel Humps were bypassed, some jumps were mitigated and on the Ciaslat meadows some hills were smoothed.
Atle Skaardal, the Norwegian race director of FIS, said that "just the right adjustments were made to turn this into a racing track for the ladies. It's a lot of fun to watch. I hope they enjoy racing it too." After the races, the athletes provided their feedback on the track saying that it was perfect. Despite the mitigation, the runners liked being able to race the famous Saslong.
The victory of the downhill race (almost) goes to Val Gardena/Gröden
After the trainings went smoothly, the downhill race of the ladies kicked off on Tuesday at 12:30 pm. At conclusion of the training runs, it was clear that the Austrian team was very strong. Local hero Nicol Delago also delivered fast times during the training runs. Ilka Stuhec from Slovenia was not to be underestimated winning the downhill race with the lead time of 1:22.81 minutes.
22-year-old Nicol Delago showed her skills on the Saslong - her "home run". Her home is located not far from the Ciaslat meadows. She fulfilled every expectation and finished second with 14/100 behind. It was her first podium place during the World Cup races, and that at home. The whole valley cheered with her. Third place went to the Austrian Ramona Siebenhofer, who had already clocked good times during the whole week.
The conditions were perfect: the sun was out and the the course was excellent. The ladies were offered best conditions.
The last race: Ladies super-G
The last ladies’ race took place on Wednesday with great enthusiasm making up for a cloudy sky. Ilka Stuhec from Slovenia repeated her victory with a winning time of 1:31.87 minutes. This time two ladies raced into second place: Tina Weirather from Lichtenstein and Nicole Schmidhofer from Austria with 1:31.92. Local heroine Nicol Delago placed 20th. Nevertheless, she was happy about the successful race day.