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Adelboden: Benni Raich wins giant slalom; Ligety 13th

Adelboden: Benni Raich wins giant slalom; Ligety 13thADELBODEN, Switzerland – Despite nearly coming to a stop just before the famously treacherous final pitch, Benni Raich won the Adelboden giant slalom on Saturday, beating out Fredrick Nyberg of Sweden, who became the oldest ever skier to score a World Cup podium.

‘It has been two years since I stopped skiing the speed disciplines’ said Nyberg, who is 36. ‘I heard that I was the oldest to be on the podium, and that is something to be proud of, but I have a goal to ski at Are next year in Sweden for the World Championships.’

Raich, who won the first run, appeared to have blown his chances when he blew wide on a turn before the steep final pitch to the finish. ‘You never know’ he said. ‘For me it was important that there was a steep part after this mistake. I didn’t lose a lot of speed because of that, and that’s why I’m in front.’

Among Americans, Ted Ligety and Bode Miller led the way in 13th and 14th, with Erik Schlopy just behind as part of a three-way tie for 15th. Chip Knight scored GS points for the first time in his career, finishing 18th wearing bib 49. Both Dane Spencer and Jimmy Cochran crashed on the first run.

Daron Rahlves crashed hard on the final pitch in the second run, catching his right arm on a right-footed turn – as if cross-blocking a slalom gate. He tumbled down the same final pitch where he crashed last year.

The race was the final giant slalom before the Olympic Winter Games, and although they won’t announce their team selection until Jan. 25, U.S. Ski Team officials are beginning to agonize over their decision.

It was the 50th anniversary of the Adelboden race, which features fallaways, steeps and sidehills. Alongside the Alta Badia course in Italy every December, the Chuenisbaergli giant slalom course is widely considered to be one of the hardest on the men’s World Cup. ‘This is like the Kitzbuehel of all GS races’ said Rahlves in an online analysis of his vicious crash there last season (click ‘the skier’ and ‘the price you pay’ to see it). ‘It’s gnarly. It’s super technical, rollers, terrain, sidehills, there’s banks, it’s bulletproof, just rough, it’s long.’

This year, American technical head coach Mike Morin had the honor of setting the first run of the giant slalom.

Lasse Kjus of Norway made his return to the World Cup on Saturday, while members of the Italian and French ski teams wore black arm bands to honor the memory of Severino Bottero, a coach who worked with both teams and was killed in a one-car accident on Jan. 2.

The notorious Adelboden hill
The Adelboden slope is tough. It is also a particular favorite of the hometown heroes; Swiss racers always put on their best performance here. Pirmin Zurbriggen won the GS race in 1983, and twice in 1987 (a doubleheader for the race’s 20th anniversary). Michael von Gruenigen won in 1996, and Didier Cuche in 2002. Last year, a 21-year-old Swiss skier named Marc Berthod shot from the 57th start position to finish seventh before his countrymen.

A list of the former winners of the prestigious race can be found here.

This was the fifth of nine giant slaloms scheduled for this season. Already raced are Soelden (Oct. 23); Beaver Creek (Dec. 3); Alta Badia, Italy (Dec. 18) and Kranjska Gora, Slovenia (Dec. 21). Still to come are two races at Yongpyong, South Korea, (March 4 and 5) and the Finals at Are, Sweden (March 17).

What to watch for on the World Cup tomorrow
For decades, the annual Adelboden race was a standalone giant slalom event, but since 2000, the FIS has occasionally chosen to pair it with a slalom, as it is doing this year. While the men are racing slalom on Sunday, the women’s World Cup giant slalom in Maribor, Slovenia, was canceled because of soft snow. On Sunday, the women will be switching to short skis as well. Then the women move to Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, while the men jump a few valleys over for the famed Lauberhorn races at Wengen.

Men’s giant slalom
Adelboden, Switzerland
Jan. 7, 2006

1. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:32.25
2. Fredrik Nyberg, SWE 2:23.74
3. Stephan Goergl, AUT 2:24.47
3. Kalle Palander, FIN 2:24.47
5. Thomas Fanara, FRA 2:24.68
6. Thomas Grandi, CAN 2:24.82
7. Hermann Maier, AUT 2:25.06
8. Patrick Bechter, AUT 2:25.20
8. Joel Chenal, FRA 2:25.20
8. Davide Simoncelli, ITA 2:25.20
11. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA 2:25.22
12. Manfred Moelgg, ITA 2:25.51
13. Ted Ligety, USA 2:25.52
14. Bode Miller, USA 2:25.64
15. Mario Matt, AUT 2:25.70
15. Marco Buechel, LIE 2:25.70
15. Erik Schlopy, USA 2:25.70
18. Chip Knight, USA 2:25.72
19. Arnold Rieder, ITA 2:25.78
20. Jean-Philippe Roy, CAN 2:25.91
21. Marc Berthod, SUI 2:25.92
21. Didier Cuche, SUI 2:25.92
23. Giorgio Rocca, ITA 2:25.98
24. Mitja Valencic, SLO 2:26.35
25. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:26.44
26. Ales Gorza, SLO 2:26.48
27. Raphael Burtin, FRA 2:26.73
Other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Erik Guay, CAN.
DNF 1st: Francois Bourque, Ryan Semple, John Kucera, Julien Cousineau, Stefan Guay, CAN; Dane Spencer, James Cochran, USA.
DNF 2nd: Daron Rahlves, USA.

THE SCOOP
By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s GS, Adelboden, Dec. 7, 2006

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Nyberg, Fischer/Nordica/Fischer
3. Goergl, Fischer/Lange/Fischer
3. Palander, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5. Fanara, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol 6. Grandi, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol 7. Maier, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 8. Bechter, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon 8. Chenal, Dynastar/Lange/Look 8. Simoncelli, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon

Men’s giant slalom, Adelboden, Switzerland, Jan. 7, 2006. … It is the 17th race of the men’s 34 race, 4 combined World Cup schedule. … It is the fifth of eight scheduled GS’s. … It is the 39th World Cup held at Adelboden, the 36th GS. … Multiple winners at the site include Marc Girardelli (2), Jean-Claude Killy (2), Hermann Maier (3), Ingemar Stenmark (5), Gustavo Thoeni (3) and Pirmin Zurbriggen (3).

It is the 18th career win for Benjamin Raich. … His second win of the season and his second GS win in a row. … He had never won at Adelboden before. … It is his fourth podium of the season. … He has scored in 12 of the 17 races held this season.

It is the 22nd career podium for Fredrik Nyberg, his first since finishing third in GS at Kranjska Gora Feb 28, 2004. … He is 36 from Sundsvall. … He has scored in all five GS this season, four of them seventh or better. … It is his third podium at Adelboden, but first since Jan. 5 2002.

It is the fourth career podium for Stephan Goergl, a win and a third in both SG and GS. … He tallied two podiums at last season’s Lenzerheide finals. … His best result previously this season was eighth at Alta Badia’s GS Dec. 18. … It is his first Adelboden scoring result.

It is the 21st career podium for Kalle Palander. … His 8th in GS. … It is his third podium of the season, having claimed third Dec. 3 at Beaver Creek in GS and third at Madonna di Campiglio’s night slalom Dec. 12. … He won at Adelboden Feb 7, 2004, and was third last season Jan. 11, 2005.

It is the 14th career top-six placing for Thomas Grandi, eight of them in the past two seasons and four this season. … He had been on the podium twice at Kranjska Gora earlier this season (GS Dec. 21, SL Dec. 22). … Thirteenth is the second-best GS p
lacing of Ted Ligety’s career. … It is his eighth-best career placing, and sixth-best of the season. … It is the worst scoring result from Adelboden in six races for Bode Miller. … He won at the site Jan. 6, 2002. and has been second twice. … It is the second-best of four scored results at Adelboden for Erik Schlopy. … He was fourth after the first run. … It is the first of Chip Knight’s 23 career scoring results that has not come in slalom. … It is his first score of the season. … He was two-hundredths out of moving up three places. … It is the 17th career scoring result for Jean-Philippe Roy. … It is his best result of the season of two, the other a 21st at Alta Badia.

Winning margin is .49 of a second. … Third place is over a second out. … 12th place two seconds out. … Raich jumps to the World Cup overall standings lead 546-489 over Miller and Daron Rahlves (second-run DNF), tied for second. … Raich leads the GS standings 286-264 over Massimiliano Blardone (11th in race), with Nyberg third at 224. … Miller leads the U.S. skiers is sixth at 198. … Canadian Grandi is eighth at 161.

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