done and Davide Simoncelli, both GS specialists, there is no bigger race on
the schedule, and that includes the Olympic Winter Games.
“This hill is really tough and this year it is so icy,” said Ted Ligety, mostly
recovered from the virus; he was the seventh-place finisher. “The first run, I
think a lot of guys were taken by surprise. I, for sure, was one guy.”
Blardone got his first win since 2007 and Simoncelli, in second, his first
podium since 2006, but both have shown propensity for performance at Alta
Badia before. Blardone won it in 2005 and Simoncelli in 2003. Only Alberto
Tomba recorded more podiums at Alta Badia than Simoncelli.
It could have been an even better result for Italy as Manfred Moelgg sat third
after the first run, but lost ground in the second to finish fifth. Frenchman
Cyprien Richard got the third place slot, a massive 1.63 seconds off Blardone’s
pace and Austrian Benjamin Raich, with an excellent second run, moved
from 13th to fourth. Sixth was another Italian, Alexander Ploner.
No one, though, could top Blardone, who won both runs to dust his run-
ning mate by 0.43 of a second. After crossing the finish, he stepped out of his
bindings and sprawled on the finish-area snow, then stood and received the
adulation of the home crowd.
“For Italia,” said Blardone, “It is one day special.”
It took a bit of searching to find the silver lining for the U.S. Bode Miller
failed to qualify for a second run for the first time since the opening of the
2007 season, and the punishment the course dished out swelled his sore an-
kle enough that he had to drop out of the Monday slalom as well. Ligety was
so far out after the first run it was amazing he did as well as he did, finishing
second after going to a wider-edged ski for the second run.
Really, the U.S. highlight of the day was at the bottom of the U.S. start order.
Tommy Ford got his first World Cup points in 24th place, earning another
start spot for the team in the process.
“That was unbelievable,” said coach Sasha Rearick. “His first season on the
World Cup, his first time to Alta Badia; to come down and ski two solid runs,
get points, get us another GS start [up to six]. I am so fired up for him. Awe-
some job by Tommy Ford.”
Ford said the annual race at Alta Badia had always been one of his favorites
to watch back home in Oregon. “This is my favorite race,” he said. “To finally
ski the hill; it’s unbelievable.” He said he felt like he had finally got his head
under control and that he now knows he can be competitive.
The next day’s slalom saw a return to the recent trend of Austrian strength in
the European World Cup races. Though they were shut off the podium in pre-
vious day’s GS, Austrians secured two of the three spots as Reinfried Herbst
tallied his seventh career World Cup slalom win with a tough, come-from-be-
hind second run effort and first-run leader Manfred Pranger held on for third.
Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland squeezed between to claim the second-place
finish. It was the second slalom win in two races for Herbst, putting him in
firm control of the slalom standings, 98 points in front of Zurbriggen.
“The course was very tough and this hard snow — ice,” said Herbst. “So fight-
ing was important.” He added that he had battled “the whole run,” for the win.
Having another Austrian join him on the podium, he said, would “make for a
nice break for Christmas.”
The Italians were poised to strike but couldn’t quite power past their first-
run time deficits that all approached or exceeded a full second. Despite push-
ing three skiers into the top eight and four in the first 11, the best the hosts
could muster was Manfred Moelgg in fourth.
Canadian Michael Janyk got his best result since 2007 in fifth place and the
Americans got a nice effort from Jimmy Cochran in ninth, one of five top- 10
finishes for his World Cup career. Ted Ligety ran into difficulty in the first run
and failed to qualify.
For Cochran, the placing was “awesome,” he said. “I felt really comfortable
and confident,” said Cochran. “I’ll take it, a top 10, that’s really good for me. I
feel like I can build and that I have a little more speed in me. It’s a crazy sport
and just to be in the same conversation with my dad and his sister [part of
the powerhouse Cochran family that has sent multiple racers to the World
Cup and Olympic Winter Games] is, to me, big because they were my heroes
growing up — and still are.”
“He did a fantastic job,” said Rearick, “and, well, Merry Christmas.”
American Jimmy Cochran at Alta Badia: “I felt really comfort-
able and confident. I’ll take a top 10, that’s really good for me.”
Bode Miller attacked the Val Gardena super G from
top to bottom, said coach Sasha Rearick.