As you likely know, I was relocated from Val d’Isere with the ladies to Val Gardena with the men for the weekend. Though I miss being with the ladies’ tour over in France, I have to say…oh Italia, Italia…how do I love thee?! Let me count thy ways. This place is pretty unique. It’s the Saslong. It’s menacing and magnificent all at the same time, towering over the famed track here at Val Gardena – a classic on the tour. YES!! Always like a kid in a candy shop. The vibe here is superb. We’re having FUN. Are you?!
The Scoop/Course Report: There might not be a ton of snow on the Saslong, but it’s buff and ready to go. Feels a little spring-like. Buttery. Colorado-esque. In other words, the guys like it. Mmmm. The course crew has done another wonder here, making mountains out of molehills. It looks and feels good. We’re anxious for go-time here. I caught up with Andrew “Warhorse” Weibrecht after inspection and he said the set is pretty straight, and they’ve taken out a lot of terrain, which he’s not wild about. This will favor the bigger guys who like to glide.
For more goodies: Check out the men’s and women’s preview for the weekend.
Val Gardena – Men’s Super G
- Start time: 12:15 CET
- U.S. Starters: Andrew Weibrecht (10), Travis Ganong (12), Tommy Biesemeyer (25), Jared Goldberg (36), Wiley Maple (40), Steven Nyman (41), Bryce Bennett (56), and Marco Sullivan (61).
- Weibrecht doesn’t typically prefer this track, as his skills lend themselves more on the technical side and he thinks this tracks is more of a glider’s track, but in downhill training he threw down some pretty fast skiing, and coming out of Birds of Prey he’s feeling confident and ready. Did you read the “Behind the Gold” written on Andrew this week?! So good. What a great guy.
- Ganong (3rd), Ligety (4th) and Weibrecht (9th) are all ranked in the top 10 of the current Super G standings. Only Austria have also three skiers in the top 10 of the current Super G standings. Watch out, Austria. Here we come. Ligety will sit this one out and channel his energy and focus towards Alta Badia’s GS on Sunday.
- Ganong is feeling good on his equipment set-up here, at least for downhill, and he’s got the confidence from skiing consistently fast so far this season. This is what he had to say after downhill training yesterday, "I am having really good feelings right now on my skis. The equipment is just feeling really good. We have these new skis—we had only one pair the first couple of races, and now have a couple more pairs. So we’re breaking them in here. With all of the rollers and the bumps and terrain, I feel really grounded and really solid on my feet. That’s what’s key here at Val Gardena. In the past, I’ve always gotten a little bumped and thrown around. But right now with the equipment, I feel really grounded and catlike and able to really suck up terrain and find the backside of rolls. It’s really fun to ski right now…I feel like I’m in control. This hill is about gliding, but it’s also about terrain management—figuring out how to link all the terrain together and carry all of your speed.”
- In his comeback race at Birds of Prey, Tommy “BZ” Biesemeyer skied from the back of the pack into an impressive 11th place finish. It was inspiring, and it was my highlight of the weekend. Without a doubt. He arrived to Val Gardena yesterday and he’s ready to have some fun. That’s where the focus is…not on the result, but on having fun and doing his best. His perspective is great.
- The rest of the boys are feeling good after piping some downhill turns and laying down some fast skiing in downhill training, and they’re ready to ROCK. Cross your fingers. Wear your unicorn masks. Or stars and stripes leggings. Whatever you do, CHEER LOUD!
Who’s in the hunt?
The Norwegians (aka the “Attacking Vikings”). Aksel Lund Svindal (21) has won 13 World Cup races in the super G, second most among men behind Austria’s Hermann Maier, the LEGEND, who has won almost double the amount of races (24). Svindal's 23 podium finishes in this discipline is third most together with Pirmin Zurbriggen (Switzerland) and Didier Cuche (Switzerland). He needs one more top 3 finish to equal Stephan Eberharter (Austria, 24) in second place. Svindal has won the Val Gardena Super G on a record three occasions. He was victorious in December 2009, December 2012 and December 2013. So yeah, you see what I mean?! The Norwegians. That Kjetil Jansrud (22) guy runs 22 today. He’s been skiing pretty fast too. Keep an eye out, might be the #Svinsrud show here at Val Gardena today!!
Val d’Isere – Women’s Alpine Combined (AC)
- Start time: 10:30 CET (downhill), 13:45 CET (slalom)
- U.S. Starters: Lindsey Vonn (2), Laurenne Ross (11), and Jackie Wiles (24).
- A lot of people don’t prefer the Alpine Combined (aka Super Combined/SC), but I think it’s rad. One run each of the two most disparate disciplines?! It takes someone special to do well.
- Vonn has won the final standings in the AC on three occasions and is looking to equal record holders Brigitte Oertli (Switzerland) and Janica Kostelic (Croatia) on four wins. Late last season she asked if there would be a globe for the Combined event this season. She likes it, and she likes Val d’Isere. That’s because she’s dominated the downhill there. She has won five World Cup events in the AC. She also won the downhill here last year, snagging another cow for her herd in Kirchberg, which she named Winnie.
- How does Vonn feel about her slalom prep, though?! "I’ve had about two days of slalom. I feel like in slalom, I just have to wing it. And I feel good. Like I’ve been saying the last couple days, I feel really balanced on my skis, so I’m hoping for a good downhill run. I’ll definitely have to ski very fast in downhill and then hopefully just have a solid slalom run.”
- Keep an eye out for Ross and Wiles too. Ross has been skiing consistently fast in downhill and has the technical skill to finish well today. Wiles is young, but she’s strong and she’s fierce…a risk-taker on the mountain in search of speed and a fun one to follow. She’ll also be rocking her new headgear sponsor, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation. How cool is that?!
Who’s in the hunt?
Vonn thinks her biggest competition for today’s AC will be Austria’s Michaela Kirchgasser (22) and Switzerland’s Lara Gut (21): "I think Kirchgasser is probably my biggest threat, and so yesterday she was about 2.5 seconds back. I would like a little bit more since she’s so good at slalom. So, I don’t know. I think Lara Gut’s also really good in slalom. I’d like a 2.5-second margin over Kirchgasser. That would be great. I don’t know if I’ll get it, but I am going to try.” Those Austrian women are in the hunt for back-to-back AC discipline wins. Last season Austria’s Anna Fenninger won the only AC World Cup event, thus finishing on top of the standings. But guess what?! Sadly Fenninger is out this year, and Vonn is hungry for some AC “W”.
TV and Live Streaming Schedule (times EST):
Friday, Dec. 18
4:30 a.m. - Women's SC-DH, Val d'Isere - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
6:00 a.m. - Men's SG, Val Gardena - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
7:30 a.m. - Women's SC-SL, Val d'Isere - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
1:00 p.m. - Men's SG, Val Gardena, Universal HD
2:30 p.m. - Women's CO, Val d'Isere, Universal HD
*Follow the action from Val Gardena on Snapchat (usskiteam).*
You know what?! Excited about today, but I can’t wait for tomorrow, can’t wait for tomorrow, can’t wait for tomorrow…love me some downhill day action.
Buckle up, here weeeeee go!
Ski in Peace,