Gagnon wins again, Lapanja top American in sixth


The junior podium at Loveland with Lapanja on top.

The junior podium at Loveland with Lapanja on top.

GEORGETOWN, Colo. — For the second day in a row, Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon stole the show at the Loveland NorAm tech series, proving she is a serious World Cup contender in both GS and slalom. In the opening slalom race of the series, Gagnon extended her first run lead to take the win by 0.38 of a second over runner-up Michaela Kirchgasser of Austria. Kirchgasser’s teammate Carmen Thalmann rounded out the podium in third.

Gagnon’s second run was not flawless, and she nearly skied out on the top pitch.

“I watched Kirchgasser go, and I was like, ‘Oh shoot, that was good,’ and I got nervous a little bit and went too straight at the first couple of gates, but was able to snap it back into line and the right tempo,” said Gagnon about her early recovery. “It was a fight. It’s not a World Cup, not the same kind of setup with slippers, so it’s definitely difficult,” noted Gagnon who started bib 19.

Under continual snowfall it was a race of attrition as only 31 of the 69 athletes on the start list managed to complete both courses, and all 37 skiers who completed first run qualified for the second. Still, the course crews at Loveland managed to pull off the race despite receiving more than a foot of new snow in the 24 hours preceding the event. As skiers pushed through to a solid surface below, the decision was made that the second run course set would only be a redress of the first.

Double NCAA title winner Kristine Haugen of the University of Denver, who missed the majority of summer training after having shoulder surgery in July, failed to finish the previous two races but managed to produce a top-5 result on the day.

As a belated birthday present, U.S. Ski Team development group athlete Lila Lapanja scored a career best result (18.46 points), finishing as the top American in sixth among the World Cup stars. Independent skier Megan McJames laid down a blazing first run and sat in striking distance in fourth, but she fell back to eighth after the second run, while Canadian national team member Madison Irwin, who returned this season following a back injury, showed great promise by powering to seventh from bib 26.

There has been a great deal of skepticism surrounding the U.S. women’s technical team, which aside from Mikaela Shiffrin has failed to perform up to expectations on the World Cup, but Lapanja’s result provided a ray of hope for the future.

“Training has been going so well lately and I wanted to bring that to a race finally, the fact that I was able to do that feels incredible,” said Lapanja, who has her eyes set on a World Cup start in the not so distant future. “My parents and my coach, they’ve been telling me all prep season to believe I belong with the World Cup girls. If I take that mentality into races too, I’m naturally going to be skiing faster and taking it down the hill more to keep up with them.”

Westminster College’s Anna Goodman, who was hoping to use her World Cup slalom starts this season as a launchpad to the Sochi Olympics, did not race because she injured her knee while training the previous day at Copper Mountain. She later confirmed via Facebook that she suffered a torn ACL and medial meniscus and will not be able to compete this year.

Once the ladies were finished on the hill, the boys took over for the FIS National Junior Races that have followed each NorAm at Loveland so far this season. Despite the snowfall, the hill crew was able to pull off two successful races in a single day.

Results 

PL BIB   CODE  COMPETITOR----------------- NAT     TIME    TIME   TOTAL    RACE 
     Nr         SURNAME NAME                      1stRUN  2ndRUN    TIME  POINTS 

  1  19  105269 GAGNON, Marie-Michele       CAN    49.46   50.08  1`39.54   0.00 
  2  20   55759 KIRCHGASSER, Michaela       AUT    49.56   50.36  1`39.92   2.37 
  3  21   55977 THALMANN, Carmen            AUT    49.61   50.47  1`40.08   3.36 
  4  23  515997 FEIERABEND, Denise          SUI    50.95   50.32  1`41.27  10.78 
  5   5  425921 HAUGEN, Kristine Gjelsten   NOR    50.39   50.94  1`41.33  11.15 
  6   4  539927 LAPANJA, Lila               USA    50.72   50.82  1`41.54  12.46 
  7  26  107044 IRWIN, Madison              CAN    50.74   50.92  1`41.66  13.20 
  8   1  538284 MCJAMES, Megan              USA    50.21   51.66  1`41.87  14.51 
  9  25  306249 HASEGAWA, Emi               JPN    51.09   51.19  1`42.28  17.07 
 10  13  537772 STIEGLER, Resi              USA    51.29   51.03  1`42.32  17.32 
 11   3  105615 ROUTHIER, Eve               CAN    50.60   52.04  1`42.64  19.31 
 12  27   55898 BREM, Eva-Maria             AUT    50.78   51.93  1`42.71  19.74 
 13  32  425916 FAUSA, Chloe Margrethe      NOR    51.75   51.81  1`43.56  25.04 
 14  24  537792 DUKE, Hailey                USA    51.74   52.12  1`43.86  26.91 
 15   9  385041 NOVOSELIC, Sofija           CRO    52.18   52.07  1`44.25  29.34
 16  10  539678 PETERSON, Foreste           USA    51.75   52.80  1`44.55  31.21 
 17  40  385093 TRSINSKI, Sasa              CRO    52.71   52.01  1`44.72  32.26 
 18  16  107532 TOMMY, Mikaela              CAN    52.43   52.34  1`44.77  32.58 
 19  43  385092 KOMSIC, Andrea              CRO    53.18   52.84  1`46.02  40.36 
 20  37   35089 SIMARI BIRKNER, Macarena    ARG    53.50   52.86  1`46.36  42.48 
 21   8  107415 MOORE, Kelly                CAN    53.51   53.33  1`46.84  45.47 
 22  45  539109 DELANEY, Devin              USA    53.98   53.83  1`47.81  51.51 
 23  31   35131 GASTALDI, Nicol             ARG    54.62   53.84  1`48.46  55.56 
 24  65  516407 KASPER, Vanessa             SUI    54.30   54.93  1`49.23  60.36 
 25  41   45216 CHRYSTAL, Lavinia           AUS    55.07   55.10  1`50.17  66.21 
 26  48  107217 KNOWLES, Natalie            CAN    56.10   54.52  1`50.62  69.01 
 27  44   45267 BAMFORD, Emily              AUS    56.11   55.26  1`51.37  73.68 
 28  47  107590 BOULANGER, Elyse            CAN    58.37   54.23  1`52.60  81.35
 29  35   35156 BANCORA, Salome             ARG    56.42   56.46  1`52.88  83.09 
 30  63  107522 DENIS, Darquise             CAN    57.36   56.32  1`53.68  88.07 
 31  64  107163 RYTZ, Celine                CAN    57.08   57.90  1`54.98  96.17
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