Blue skies and blue lines outline
the Lauberhorn speed track.
Ivica Kostelic said he had
“written off any chance of
winning” after the downhill
leg of the combined.
The combined slalom run
was one of the best of
and 1.06 million more watching live on television.
Bands played, jets flew over in formation — celebration mode was well in hand — when the first skier,
Hannes Reichelt of Austria, threw himself out of the start of the longest downhill on the World Cup circuit
at 2. 7 miles.
And Reichelt was fast, a full second quicker than his training times. Only one of 13 skiers would even approach his time, when Christof Innerhofer crossed line just five-hundredths behind the Austrian. The crowd
— and the betting line — had a lot riding on Feuz. The 24-year-old had fully blossomed by the end of last
season with a March win and third in a double downhill at Kvitfjell. This season he had registered only one
mediocre race, a 20th in super G at Lake Louise. Otherwise his speed results had all been podiums. Plus
he had been scintillating in the downhill leg of the combined, so the air in the shadow of the Eiger was full
of expectation when he took to the course. And rightly so.
Feuz built a half-second margin through the critical Kernen S-turns well up the course. Though he would
lose much of that, his strength gave him the ability to power through the final S-turns just above the finish,
where legs are burning and exertion hurts. While the Swiss fans howled at the top of their lungs, Feuz shot
into the finish corral and collapsed in a happy pile against the fence. His 0.44 margin was nearly double
that of any other downhill this season.
“He can make everything fast,” Innerhofer said of the Swiss racer. “It is a good feeling and he is very
strong at the moment.”
The fans at Wengen knew better than to count their victories before they hatch. There were still plenty
of racers left who might provide a challenge, but the artistry of Feuz’s run had left them feeling giddy. Not
even an uncharacteristically poor showing by Didier Cuche (his worst finish in a year and two weeks) could
dampen the enthusiasm. But there were anxious moments.
Austrians Klaus Kroell and Romed Baumann were in contention but couldn’t break the hold on the podium. Aksel Lund Svindal’s run drew attention. But it was Bode Miller who brought down a veil of silence
in the finish as he built an early lead and held it through the Kernen S-turns.
Miller was the downhill standings leader and skiing as good a downhill as ever. But then, slowly, he
started to lose ground, leading by just 0.03 at the third interval and trailing by 0.02
after the fourth.
“Right from the top Bode was going for it, holding his tuck hard and doing what
he had to do be able to chase the win down from starting at 22,” said U.S. coach
Sasha Rearick. “Then, right at the bottom of the Hanneggschuss, he got rocked
by some bumps and from there down, just lost his speed. It’s a bummer, because
he was right on the line and in a position to win until he hit those bumps.”
By the finish Miller had dropped off the podium to fifth place.