Johann Grugger wins gusty Bormio downhill


Johann Grugger wins gusty Bormio downhill{mosimage}With heavy gusts of wind skewing the results of several racers, Austria appears to have swept the men’s World Cup downhill at Bormio, Italy. The young Johann Grugger picked up his first-ever win, beating out his countrymen Michael Walchhofer and Fritz Strobl. The victory may help Grugger win one of Austria’s four open start positions when the alpine world championships come to this small Italian town, one month from now.

“Maybe they should have a jury select the winner based on how good they look,” said Bode Miller, the overall leader, in a sarcastic comment that got good play in the European coverage. Miller’s comment reflected the frustration of many World Cup downhillers, who have now watched two races go by in which variable wind disguised the best skiing. (Miller finished 14th, 1.85 off the pace).
“To have the results two downhill races influenced by the wind is always a bummer,” said head U.S. speed coach John McBride. “[But] Johann Grugger is the real thing – he’s very capable.”

Winds were so severe during the race that Marco Buechel of Lichtenstein, wearing bib 20, was pulled off the course near the start house to begin again after waiting for winds to subside. Justin Johnson and Scott Macartney from the U.S. got stuck on the gondola, delaying their arrival at the start. “They even held the race up for 10 minutes or so to wait for them,” reported McBride.

The sky was clear, but the light was flat whenever the sun went behind the clouds. And at several points in the race specatators couldn’t see the athletes’ skis, which were obsured by snow that had been loosened from the rock-hard track and blown back up the steep downhill course.

Daron Rahlves, who won here two years ago and is falling behind in his quest to win the downhill discipline title, crossed the finish line in fourth. He shook his head in disappointment. After 50 racers, he was sitting in sixth position.

“He’s probably not overly-psyched about it,” said coach McBride. “But you can only perform the best you can – it’s tough to ski against yourself and the mountain.” The American team will get a chance to train in early January in Austria, and then move on to Chamonix for the next men’s downhill.

Race organizers moved a gate on one of the course’s biggest jumps — in the San Pietro section — so that athletes came off where the lip of the jump was less sharp.

A standout performance came from Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland, who finished a career-best fifth. Known for his slalom skills, Zurbriggen was using this week’s race to feel out the Bormio downhill course in preparation for the combined event at next month’s world championships.

World Cup

Men’s Downhill
Bormio, Italy
Dec. 29, 2004

1. Johann Grugger, AUT 1:55.77
2. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:56.01
3. Fritz Strobl, AUT 1:56.43
4. Klaus Kroell, AUT 1:56.47
5. Silvan Zurbriggen, SUI 1:56.90
6. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:56.95
7. Didier Cuche, SUI 1:57.05
8. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:57.14
9. Christoph Gruber, AUT 1:57.16
10. Werner Franz, AUT 1:57.32
11. Hermann Maier, AUT 1:57.42
12. Didier Defago, SUI 1:57.43
13. Finley Mickel, GBR 1:57.54
14. Bode Miller, USA 1:57.62
15. Max Rauffer, GER 1:57.69
16. Andreas Buder, AUT 1:58.01
17. Benjamin Raich, AUT 1:58.02
18. Paul Accola, SUI 1:58.03
19. Peter Fill, ITA 1:58.13
20. Erik Guay, CAN 1:58.14
21. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:58.15
22. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 1:58.17
22. Alessandro Fattori, ITA 1:58.17
24. Kurt Sulzenbacher, ITA 1:58.21
25. Sebastien Fournier-Bidoz, FRA 1:58.32
26. Antoine Deneriaz, FRA 1:58.47
27. Florian Eckert, GER 1:58.51
28. Bryon Friedman, USA 1:58.57
29. Lasse Kjus, NOR 1:58.59
30. Stefan Johann Thanei, ITA 1:58.69
other North Americans:
49. Scott Macartney, USA 2:00.47
52. Jeff Hume, CAN 2:01.03
DNF: Justin Johnson, USA

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

equipment
Men’s Downhill, Bormio, Dec. 29, 2004
Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Grugger, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
2 Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
4 Kroell, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
5 Zurbriggen, Fischer/Lange/Tyrolia
6 Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7 Cuche, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8 Kernen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Gruber, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
10 Franz, Blizzard/Lange/Marker

Men’s Downhill, Bormio 12/29/04 is the 16th of 35 (plus two combined) scheduled men’s World Cup races. … It is the fifth of 11 scheduled downhills. … Top four skiers finish within the same second.

It is the first career win for Johann Grugger. … He has just 20 scoring results for his career the first coming at Lake Louise 11/29/03. … Two of his three career podiums have come in his last two races (was 3rd at Val Gardena dh 12/18). … He is the eighth different Austrian to win this season… No Austrian has yet won twice this season. … It is the second Austrian sweep of the season (also Val Gardena SG 12/17). … It is the first victory of the season on Head skis.

It is the 21st career podium for Michael Walchhofer. … His sixth of the season. … It is his first second place of the season against one win and four third place results.

It is the 23rd career podium for Fritz Strobl. … His first of the season. … His sixth at Bormio dating to 12/29/98. … Of the 13 men’s DH’s held at Bormio, Austrians have won nine. … They place seven in the top 11 today.

It is the 33rd career top six placing for Daron Rahlves. … HIs fifth of the season. … He won at Bormio 12/29/02 and was 3rd 1/11/03 in his last two races on the Stelvio course. … It is the second consecutive 14th place finish in DH for Bode Miller after winning the first two of the season. … It is the 16th career scoring result for Erik Guay. … His sixth this season. … It is the 15th career scoring result for Bryon Friedman. … His fifth this season.

Miller maintains the World Cup overall standings lead 876-560 over Benjamin Raich (finished 17th). … Rahlves is the next best American in sixth at 391. … Miller also leads the DH standings 286-271 over Michael Walchhofer. … Rahlves is third at 219. … Austria extends its Nations Cup lead to 5523-2740 over the U.S. … Austria leads the men’s standings 3621-1584 over the U.S.

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