OUT OF THE GATE
Ivica Kostelic handles rutted-out Flachau course to
take the night slalom By Hank McKee
Ivica Kostelic won
himself a Christmas
present at Flachau.
The general lack of snow around Europe’s winter playgrounds has been significant enough that no one was
about to complain about the persistent flakes that fell steadily throughout the evening of the men’s World Cup
slalom at Flachau, Austria, on Dec. 21, the final Cup race before the Christmas holidays. But it wasn’t a particularly nice snow. It was wet, carried in on a breeze barely below freezing. It stuck to goggles, it clung to clothes.
And it formed ruts.
Sometimes the bad can bring out the good, and the conditions certainly brought out the best in one of the better
slalom racers of the time — defending overall and slalom champion Ivica Kostelic.
The brother of Croatia’s all time queen of ski sport, Janica, Kostelic calmly, cleanly put up a slim first run margin
over Italy’s newest slalom excitement — Cristian DeVille — and one of Austria’s aging slalom stable, Manfred
Pranger (0.14 and 0.15 respectively). Kostelic watched calmly from the leaders’ box in the finish as later skiers
tried to battle through the growing ruts with very little success.
Only a few made any inroads against the early running leaders. Patrick Thaler moved to eighth from the 25 start
and Fritz Dopfer to 12th from start 26. Only six skiers starting outside the first 30 would manage to qualify for a
second run and most of them were in a line at the tail end of the order. Lars Elton Myhrer finished 16th from the
45th start. Reto Schmidiger turned 35 into 23. Leif Kristian Haugen, a Denver University standout, got 26th from
the 46th start. Christoph Dreier got 27th from 44th, Krystof Kryzl 28th from 47th and Canadian Trevor White 30th
The second run added a misty fog to the mix just to keep things interesting, and interesting it was. The balance
between steady and risky played out vividly in the second run.
A wild and charging performance from Mattias Hargin, the 12th starter of the second run, gave him a brief lead.
But with the ruts beginning to have their impact, the strategy was flawed. Hargin’s Swedish teammate Jens
Byggmark also charged all-out from the 17th start and survived for a six tenths lead, quieting the pro-Austria
crowd when he pushed Reinfried Herbst out of the top spot. Marcel Hirscher, the most pleasant surprise of the
season for Austria, took at least one risk too many, caught a tip and straddled, then drifted to the side of the