Ten Years, Six Tenths of a Second and a Few
Thousand Miles: Men’s Giant Slalom, October 25
Like all glaciers these days, the Rettenbach Glacier is receding, shrinking
back up the mountain. With the help of some hellacious big snow guns, the
organizers covered the glacial till to the stadium finish. Basically, the GS
race runs along the top of the glacier and then down its sheer face to the
man-made surface that covers the flats.
Ligety won the face. Cuche won the race on the flats.
Ten years and 15 days separate the births of Didier Cuche and Ted Ligety;
plus six tenths of a second and a few thousand miles of experience.
Cuche, 35, raced three years of World Cup speed events before scoring in a
GS. Ligety was 13 that day. On October 25 in the 2010 season opener, Cuche
showed off his old-school downhill gliding skills across the bottom, pulling
away to win.
Ligety gave the old guy a good run. An error high on the face of his first run
cost him some and a slight bobble at the bottom
cost him more.
“The snow is pretty peely, it had some icy spots
and really grippy spots,” Ligety said of the first
of two runs. “It’s kind of hard to get a full length
good groove in it. That’s why I almost went down
on the pitch.”
In fact, he did go down, touching a hip and hand
to the surface. He stuck with it, rode it and recovered in plenty of time to make the next gate. That
the mistake happened high on the pitch was to
his benefit and he quickly regained his timing and
found some full-length good grooves. He arced
down the rest of the face, producing body angles
that, on this day at least, no one could match.
But the key to this race was in the transition
from the face of the Rettenbach to the flat. “You
need to be super smooth on the last two turns on
the pitch,” said Ligety, “and then you’re able to
keep the speed rolling. That’s where I made my
mistake, in the transition, and that is instanta-
neous tenths on.
… Because you pay
for so long. It is so
slow and dead flat
In the second run, Ligety made up a 0.36-second first-run deficit plus one
beat to lead by 0.001 at the bottom of the face. From there it was all Cuche,
riding a smooth, flat ski-scooted-through-the-dead-flats for an impressive
0.60 victory, the first win of the men’s Olympic season.
“Weight,” said Cuche patting his belly when asked why he had been so fast
across the bottom. “A lot of weight brings me so fast to the finish.”
Ted Ligety aims to get his groove back on the
“peely” snow of Soelden.
In truth, at least according to statistics in the 2010 FIS-approved Alpine
Guide, Cuche is under 200 pounds and weighs just 17. 6 lbs more than
Swiss Carlo Janka, two years younger than Ligety and two pounds heavier
than Cuche, just got by Italian Massiliano Blardone for third (by a hundredth)
and Austrian star Benjamin Raich broke a three-string of fourth place finishes
at Soelden on the wrong side for fifth, a distant 1.45 seconds behind Cuche.
The Canadian Cowboys, as they like to be called, had a day well above expectations. The last Canadian giant slalom podium came in 2007 and the last
win in 2004. The bearded Jean-Philippe (JP) Roy posted ninth, largely due to
a strong first run to gain his third-best career mark in the discipline. Robbie
Dixon used an early second-run start to advantage to finish 16th for the only
GS points of his World Cup career.
“I did what I came here to do,” said Dixon, noting that he would have been
content with a single point for 30th. Roy said he watched the first skiers on
course on TV at the top and saw how rough the course had become. “I made
up my mind I was going to fight the whole way down,” said Roy, “and that’s all
I did. I didn’t give up.” He and Italian Davide Simoncelli were the only skiers
to make the final top- 10 who started outside it.
Francois Bourque also got a couple of points in the last finish spot, 28th.
The U.S. had two additional results worth note. Tim Jitloff, perhaps fighting
more nerves than he’d like to admit, finished 31st and just missed the cut for
the second run. Two-time Ski Racing Junior of the Year Tommy Ford, 20, won
the coach’s praise, placing 32nd in his first ever World Cup start.
“Tommy Ford had an incredible performance,” head coach Sasha
Rearick told our cameras. “For him to come out and execute what he
has learned (in training) on race day was excellent.”
“I thought I skied okay,” said Ford after finishing 20 places better
than his start position of 52. “But not like I have been.”
A product of the American college racing scene, Norway’s Leif Kristian Haugen finished both runs to place 26th.
American collegiate standout Warner Nickerson missed the cut
for a second run after having the opportunity to start via a time trial
against his friend and traveling companion Dane Spencer, making, he said,
for a pretty quiet car ride.
“I started pretty late (47th) so (the strategy) was go like hell and attack like
hell,” said Nickerson. “I just have to ski fast… Ski faster; more arcing. “
This day, arcing wasn’t enough, not against the gliding of Didier Cuche.
With first and third on the day, the Swiss took the Nations Cup for the race.
— Hank McKee
Ted Ligety, Didier Cuche and Carlo Janka
celebrate the season-opener.