Two words: BRYCE BENNETT. Oh. My. God. RIGHT?! Sorry, but can I get a HELL YEAH?!. I speak for the rest of the team when I say, that made our weekend in Val Gardena. No one expected it. Not even the big man himself. That moment when Bryce came through the finish line and looked at the timer in disbelief is the reason I love this sport so passionately. Just incredible skiing. Smooth like butter the whole way down. Aerodynamic. Pretty impressive for a guy with a 6’7” frame. He’s stoked to get the #AmericanDownhiller vest for the week. By the way, just watched the video again and cried. SO cool.
I wrote a What Makes a Champion piece on Bryce back in October that I think is more valid now than ever. Bryce spoke with depth about what he felt encapsulates a champion: “I feel my journey is a bit different than most: I'm not in this sport with the end goal to win World Cup medals or globes or Olympic medals. I'm in this sport because it's incredibly challenging with numerous variables to master, with little to no support from others to help you put down fast skiing,” Bennett notes. “No one truly understands every aspect of this sport. That's what drives me—to understand the ins and outs through self mastery and trial and error, and one day inspire kids to go after fulfillment and passion in their work, instead of just doing whatever it takes to get to the top.”
Yesterday in Val d’Isere, Laurenne Ross led the charge of four women into the top 20, with 10th place followed by Alice McKennis in 12th, Stacey Cook in 16th and Jackie Wiles in 17th. Vonn, the current overall World Cup leader, was .13 faster than Switzerland’s Lara Gut at the first split time when she hit a bump midway down the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup downhill course and briefly became airborne. She eventually landed and skied safely off the course for a DNF. That ended her bid for a record-extending 72nd World Cup win and record-tying 36th downhill victory.
The Scoop: Onward and upward…like, literally, over the Dolomites to Alta Badia for a giant slalom Sunday where Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) has won twice, the last time in 2012.
Course Report from Sasha Rearick: Snow on the top here first run is pretty good. There are a couple turns that will chunk out a little bit. But once you get around the second bend, the snow is perfect. Super-easy to ski. Guys are going to have to hammer it. New challenge this year are two rolls they’ve built in towards the bottom for the Parallel GS tomorrow. They’re actual jumps, we don’t typically have jumps in the GS but here we do. It’ll be challenging, because their legs are going to be hurting and they’re going to be exhausted when they reach this section. They need to ski committed over the jumps/rolls and have direction into the bottom section of the course.
Alta Badia – Men’s GS
- Start time: 1st run – 9:30am CET, 2nd run 12:30pm CET
- U.S. Starters: Ted Ligety (4), Tim Jitloff (9), Tommy Ford (31), and David Chodounsky (50).
- Ted Ligety has finished on the podium in only one of his last seven GS races. He won in Sölden on 25 October. Ask him about last Saturday at Val d’Isere and he’ll tell you it never happened, “I only skied a slalom here at Val d’Isere,” he’ll say. He and the entire team are moving forward from last weekend’s frustrating performance and he and the team have had great training this weekend at the quaint South Tyrolean village called Pfelders.
- Of the 15 times Ligety has raced on this track, he's won twice (2010, 2012), podiumed six times, been in the top ten 12 times, 12th one time, and DNFd/DNQ twice. Safe to say, he’s had some great success and consistency on this track. As a reminder, Ligety has won 24 GS World Cup races, outright second most among men only trailing record holder Ingemar Stenmark who won almost double the amount of races (46). Can “Mr. GS” conquer Gran Risa and once again live up to the title?! Let us see…
- Jitloff’s best finish on this track was two years ago with a 5th (which matches his career best World Cup finish with a 5th in Sestriere in 2009). He knows he can podium. He can ski with these guys. He’s so close. For him, it’s all about the brain in the right place.
- It’s been a while since TFord has finished on the Gran Risa slope. In fact, of the four years he’s skied it (2009-12), the only finish he has in 2009 with a 24th place finish. Turn it up and turn it on, buddy – you got this!
- Daver is relatively new to the GS discipline, but he has skied here before. He DNFd during the first run. But he had a solid 16th place finish at Birds of Prey this season, followed by some good skiing last weekend in Val d’Isere. He’s still riding high on that 4th place Val d’Isere slalom finish, so he’ll look to bring that momentum into today.
Who’s in the hunt? You all know the answer. It’s Austria’s Marcel Hirscher (bib 5). The dude is seemingly unstoppable. Hirscher has won the last two GS World Cup races as well as the last two GS races in Alta Badia. He’s in the hunt for hat-tricks all around tomorrow. He could be the first male skier to win Alta Badia three times in a row. Hirscher is the only ski racer to have finished on the podium in all three GS races this season. He won in Beaver Creek and Vald'Isère and finished third in Sölden.
Here’s kind of a cool stat: Ligety (16 wins) and Hirscher (14) have won 30 of the last 36 Giant Slalom World Cup events. Italy’s Massimiliano Blardone (2 – bib 56), France’s Alexis Pinturault (2 – bib 6), Deutschland's Felix Neureuther (1 – bib 3) and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen (1 – bib 7) were the other winners in this run. This run of 36 GS races started with the season opener in Sölden in October 2011. Seriously?! Watch also these guys: Thomas Fanara (2), Victor Muffat-Jeandet (1) and Roberto Nani (11).
Courchevel – Women’s GS
- Start time: 1st run – 10:30 CET, 2nd run 13:30 CET
- It’s a balmy 6 degrees celsius over at Courchevel, but I just caught up with Head Coach Paul Kristofic and he said they’ve done an incredible job prepping the track there.
- U.S. Starters: Lindsey Vonn (10), Megan McJames (46), and Stacey Cook (64).
- Vonn had a big GS win in Åre – her first GS win since Maribor in 2013. In a watered down women’s technical field (Sara Hector and Mikaela Shiffrin were both injured in Are and now on the sidelines), LV has even greater of a chance to throw down this season in GS. She’ll do it today too. She’s a bit sore from yesterday’s recovery, but she’s skiing today and she’s ready to go.
- Yes, that is Stacey Cook’s name. You read that correctly. Stacey hasn’t skied a World Cup GS since St. Moritz on December 12, 2010, where she didn’t qualify for a second run. Of her last 20 World Cup GS starts, she’s had two finishes – a 15th in Hafjell Norway in 2006 and a 28th in Spindleruv Mlyn, CZ in 2008. She’s a speed specialist, so this should be interesting. And fun. She’s running dead last, but she’s all fired up today. She’ll be having fun.
Who’s in the hunt? Federica Brignone (6) won the Giant Slalom season opener in Sölden in October. She became the first Italian to win a ladies’ GS World Cup event since Denise Karbon in January 2008. Brignone can become the first woman from Italy to record multiple GS race wins in a single World Cup season since Karbon in 2007/08 (five wins). She’s an amazing skier and she’s fun to watch. Eva-Maria Brem (7) is wearing lucky number 7 today and she’s finished second place in the last two GS World Cups (Aspen and Åre). Keep an eye out today for Tessa Worley (1), on home snow! Worley finished in the top-5 in all three GS races this season.
TV and Live Streaming Schedule (times EST):
Sunday, Dec. 20
3:30 a.m. - Men's GS1, Alta Badia - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
4:30 a.m. - Women's GS1, Courchevel- NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
6:30 a.m. - Men's GS2, Alta Badia - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
7:30 a.m. - Women's GS2, Courchevel- NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
2:00 p.m. - Men's GS, Alta Badia, Universal HD
3:30 p.m. - Women's GS, Courchevel, Universal HD
*Follow the action from Alta Badia on Snapchat (usskiteam).*
FYI: My family is in Europe and this afternoon I’ll be traveling from Alta Badia to Prague…as such, you’ll likely not hear from my for with World Cup Notes for Monday afternoon’s Parallel Giant Slalom event. All I can say is that if Timmy Jit’s head’s in the right place, this event on this track is a perfect event for Jit to crush. Keep an eye out for him!
Ski in Peace,