Val Gardena/Gröden delivers an exceptional ski spectacle
This year, on the last weekend before Christmas, the speed classics on the venerable Saslong were on the docket for the 55th time. The organizers of the Saslong Classic Club once again stood out with their impeccable organization at the anniversary edition and, true to their motto "Passion & Performance," attracted not only the best downhill skiers in the world but also ski fans from near and far.
After two challenging editions, for the first time this year, the Val Gardena/Gröden race week went off without Covid restrictions and with a packed entertainment program. Thousands of fans and representatives from sports and politics came together at the Saslong and were guests at the races and entertainment events at the foot of the Sassolungo/Langkofel. The 55th edition of the World Cup week in Val Gardena/Gröden stood out for two reasons: for the first time in the history of the traditional event, three competitions were planned, and with the super-G on Friday, the 100th World Cup race in total would have been held on the Saslong.
Things got underway in Val Gardena/Gröden on Tuesday, when the first and only training run for the two downhill races took place.In excellent conditions, it was not the top favorites but the outsiders who dominated the course: while Nils Allegre from France took first place with the high bib number 53, Italian Mattia Casse ended up in second place. With the Norwegian Markus Nordgaard Fossland and the Italian Federico Simoni, two lesser-known skiers tied for third place.
Kriechmayr wins the first downhill race
Given the intense race program, Wednesday was used to spare the course and the athletes. The following day, the first of two downhills was held on the Saslong, replacing a cancelled Beaver Creek race. On a shortened course, Austria's Vincent Kriechmayr left the competition behind and climbed to the top of the podium for the second time in Val Gardena/Gröden. Just behind Kriechmayr, Marco Odermatt from Switzerland and Matthias Mayer from Austria rounded out the podium.
From the Italian team, Florian Schieder, a racer from South Tyrol, was particularly convincing in the first downhill. The local hero from nearby Kastelruth put in a strong performance and took 13th place, the best World Cup result of his career.
Super-G falls victim to the weather
The super-G on Friday, which was supposed to be the 100th World Cup race on the Saslong, had to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Stubborn fog banks and rising temperatures would have strained the Saslong course, so it was deemed impossible to hold the race. However, given the safety of the athletes and the downhill on Saturday, a cancellation was the only possible decision.
Kilde triumphs in downhill classic
The downhill on Saturday ended with a victory for the top favorite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. The Norwegian left everyone behind, especially in the Ciaslat, and claimed his fifth victory in Val Gardena/Gröden. Behind Kilde, veteran Johan Clarey from France and Italian Mattia Casse completed the podium.
While Casse took his first World Cup podium with third place, the downhill classic turned into a less than satisfactory affair for the rest of the "Azzurri": Except Casse, all the local racers fell short of expectations and failed to score any points.
Kilde also wins the special prize
With his triumph in the downhill, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde also crowned himself the winner of the special prize DOLOMITES Val Gardena Südtirol Ski Trophy. The Norwegian collected 145 points during the race week in Val Gardena/Gröden and was thus the most successful athlete of the 55th Saslong Classic. As the winner of the DOLOMITES Val Gardena Südtirol Ski Trophy, Kilde can look forward to another original 3D wooden bust, as well as extra prize money of Euros 5,000 and a short vacation in the valley. In addition - this is new this year - the winner will be able to climb the Sassolungo/Langkofel in the company of a local expert mountain guide.
All eyes toward the 2029 World Ski Championships
Once again, the OC team of the Saslong Classic Club put forward a race week of speed classics organized down to the smallest detail and did the best advertising with a sporting event in a class of its own. The World Cup events were a selling point for South Tyrol and directed all eyes toward the 2029 Alpine Ski World Championships. The decision on whether these will be hosted by Val Gardena/Gröden will fall in the spring of 2024 - the 55th Saslong Classic provided plenty of evidence to those responsible for awarding the World Championships!