KITZBUEHEL 2005: Hahnenkamm downhill cancelled for safety reasons


KITZBUEHEL 2005: Hahnenkamm downhill cancelled for safety reasonsThe Hahnenkamm downhill at Kitzbuehel has been officially cancelled, a major disappointment for tens of thousands of fans as well as for those ski racers who consider this to be the sport’s greatest trophy.

“Due to the heavy snowfalls the downhill was cancelled by the jury for today,” said a statement from the organizing committee. “As the snow reports pronounce more snow and rising temperatures there is no possibility to start the downhill today. All works concentrate on the slalom and super G now.”

Several inches of fresh snow fell overnight on the course, adding to the snow and rain that had arrived on Thursday and Friday. Up to 400 men from the Austrian army worked on the course all night, and snowcats were moving up and down the notorious final dash to the finish.

The announcement of the cancellation was made at 9:15 a.m, as fans were already pouring off the train in Kitzbuehel. This would be the 65th running of the Hahnenkamm races. One testament to the almost mythical status of this race hill in the Austrian imagination was the fact that fans continued making their way to the finish area and filling the stadium until well after they knew the race was cancelled. “Keine abfahrt” read the signs.

A slalom is scheduled for Sunday, and that race will not be bumped to accomodate the legendary downhill. Organizers say that the race will “likely” be re-located to Kvitfjell, Norway, and bundled in with the World Cup speed races already scheduled for that venue in early March.

Monday is a possible make-up day, and organizers have indicated that it will not be used for downhill. Monday will be reserved for Sunday’s slalom if it is cancelled — otherwise it could be used to replace Friday’s cancelled super G.

Kitzbuehel’s downhill was cancelled in 1993 because of a lack of snow (the slalom and combined were cancelled as well). Since then, bad weather has forced organizers to run the race from a lower start a number of times.

The cancellation may be read as good news for American Daron Rahlves, who hasn’t recovered to 100 percent health since his crash last week in Adelboden, Switzerland. But it’s unfortunate for Bode Miller, who leads the World Cup standings; as a podium threat in both downhill and slalom, he had a rare chance to gather compounding World Cup points in both races and the combined.

Many World Cup observers also saw this as the last chance for Hermann Maier of Austria to qualify for the world championship downhill at Bormio. Only five Austrians will get to race in that event, and one of them will certainly be World Cup downhill discipline leader Michael Walchhofer, who is defending his world championship title. Johann Grugger is virtually locked-in, having won two downhills this year (including the World Cup at Bormio). Maier is among the Austrian racers competing for the final slots.

Once again, Lasse Kjus of Norway appears to have powers of omniscience. Kjus left town earlier this week, speaking of a bad cold. Last season, he opted out of travelling to Bormio for the downhill that was cancelled there, and came back with energy and training under his belt.

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