Here we are again, my friends. It’s been far, far too long, right?! With Levi cancelled, we all got a momentto breathe. But it was just a short moment. Last week while in Copper Mountain we hosted our annual First Tracks celebration, including the Media Summit and official team naming announcement, along with NASTAR Pacesetting trials. It was a busy and fruitful week for all involved.
The team, including Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety, entertained the crowd with humorous interviews. “Cortina or Val d’Isere?” emcee Daron Rahlves asked Vonn. “Lake Louise,” Vonn responded. When emcee Chris Davenport tried to put Vonn on the spot, asking her what her favorite part of the movie “Dumb and Dumber” is, Vonn responded with an quote from the movie. “Aspen, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano,” she said through laughter.
And here we are today, in Asssssspen, where the beer flows like wine…and where the snow is lightly falling as the sun attempts to nudge its way through the clouds. It’s magical here. Really. And of course I wasn’t going to be able to get through this without quoting Dumb and Dumber. You’re welcome.
The Scoop: You may or may not know this, but Lindsey and Mikaela had the chance to train on this track last Saturday. Lindsey told me the snow was aggressive, but the training was great. What you also may or may not know is that, before Lindsey fractured her ankle in training this summer at New Zealand, Lindsey was skiing SMOKING HOT FAST giant slalom. If you recall, last year at Meribel during World Cup Finals after very little GS training, LV skied into a somewhat unexpected fifth place, which allowed her to sneak in front of teammate Mikaeala and secure a third overall, behind Austria’s Anna Fenninger and Slovenia’s Tina Maze. Shiffrin finished fourth overall on the season. Then, fast forward to Soelden, where LV arrived for return to snow after not skiing for 9 weeks. She arrived just two days before the race. It was still unknown whether or not she’d compete. She felt good though. No swelling. Anna was out with injury (very sad for the sport). You can’t help but think that LV, the fierce competitor she is, thought about the opportunity to grab some early season World Cup points. She took the training runs in the ice box, and word on the mountain is that she was 3 tenths ahead of the next fastest chick. In the end, she decided it would set her up for longer-term success if she sat it out. Good decision. Her skiing lately has looked really, really good, and she’s healthy and ready for the Colorado action today. THIS JUST IN: A little birdie tells me they watched Lindsey train GS at Vail yesterday…I hear she was close to GS great, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, and she beat all of the other Austrians. DUDES. Just sayin’…
Here are some fun historical facts for you to chew on: No American has finished in the top three during a World Cup race at Aspen since Julia Mancuso was third in 2011. What’s more, no American has won at this venue since Tamara McKinney in 1981. We love Tamara, but I think it’s time to change the paradigm, whaddayasay, my friends?!
Aspen, Colorado - Women’s GS
- 1st Run Start time: 10:00 am MST. 2nd Run: 1:00pm.
- U.S. Starters: Mikaela Shiffrin (bib #4), Lindsey Vonn (16) and Megan McJames (50). Mexico’s Sarah Schleper will come down, undoubtedly with a fierce flair at bib number 59.
- Last night at the press conference Mikaela said it was a possibility we could see her face on the podium all three days this weekend. Last year she finished a disappointing sixth in GS after a little bobble. But, I still believe she’s got in her. Coming off of a solid second place finish at the Soelden season opener, Mikaela is feeling good and this is one of her favorite GS tracks. She’s said it’s like a roller-coaster ride. It’s technical, and she likes technical. Plus, she’s trained more on this track than any of her competitors and she’s a Colorado girl who loves this Colorado snow.
- Guys. Here’s the deal. Lindsey is stronger than she’s been in a while and this is the first time in three years she’s healthy for Aspen. But she’s realistic too. She acknowledges that this is a hard track for her. But she’s stoked to kick off the season skiing giant slalom from the beginning, and she’s ready to grab some World Cup points that will help her in her quest to snag her 5th overall globe this season. No, she will not be skiing slalom this season. Yes, she will be skiing GS and the Combined. And though we’re all sad to see reigning World Cup overall champion Anna Fenninger out with a knee injury and Tina Maze taking the season off, we’re all very excited to see two Americans duke it out for the overall. I’m talking about Lindsey and Mikaela, of course.
The Course Report, Post Inspection Run 1: The course crew has done a fantastic job of preparing the track. Coach PK told the crew last night at the team meeting that the track is hard, compact snow. They injected the other day, and the snow will be aggressive like it was last weekend during training, but it will have grip. The course set is not straightforward, there are a few tricks, says Head Tech Coach Brandon Dyksterhouse. Of course it’s a technical track, so that’s the challenge here. There’s one gnarly slick right ski turn before the flats, but nothing these ladies can’t handle.
Who’s in the Hunt
With retirements and injuries, I’m sad to say it’s a watered down field here in Aspen. We will not see our own Julia Mancuso, who is out for the season opting to rehab her hip. On top of that, we’re missing Fenninger and Maze, and other faces that are missing this year are Kathrin Zettel, Dominique Gisin, Liz Goergl, and Jessica Lindell-Vikarby. But don’t count the other gals out. Federica Brignone (bib 1) out. She skied beautifully in Soelden. Almost perfect. She’s got that unmistakable Italian flair. Who else to watch? Viktoria Rebensburg (bib 2), Sara Hector (bib 3), Eva-Maria Brem (bib 5) - she won lastyear in Aspen, Tina Weirrather (bib 6)…and another feisty Italian, Nadia Fanchini (bib 7). Only time will tell…
Over in Lake Louise…
While the women take on Aspen, the men’s speed team is braving the cold up in the north at Lake Louise. They tackled their first downhill training run Tuesday, with the Attacking Norwegian Vikings, Aksel Lund-Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud, leading the charge. Top Americans were Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) in fifth, Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) in ninth and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) 21st. Yesterday Jansrud once again set the pace, but he's got an American Downhiller on his heels—Ganong finished in second, just .13 out, while Nyman finished ninth and Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) 23rd. The men’s action continues with the third and final downhill training run today before downhill day kicks off on Saturday followed by super G on Sunday.
Note: Jared Goldberg, one of my favorite athletes and people in general, will sit this weekend out. He left yesterday morning from Lake Louise to travel to Salt Lake and spend Thanksgiving with his family. As he mentioned on Instagram, he tweaked his back a couple of weeks ago and he’s having some low pack pain evaluated. He decided after training day 1 that it was best to head back and prep for Birds of Prey. Smart.
2015 Nature Valley Aspen Winternational TV Schedule (times EST)
Fri. Nov. 27 – 2:30 p.m. – Women’s Giant Slalom – UniHDLIVE *
Sat. Nov. 28 – 3:30 p.m. – Women’s Slalom – NBCSN – LIVE *
Sun. Nov. 29 – 3:00 p.m. – Women’s Slalom – NBC – LIVE *
* Live streaming coverage on NBC Sports Live Extra
Ski in Peace,