Kranjska Gora’s Pokal Vitranc races on the Podkoren track 3 in Slovenia have seen their share of ski racing history. This season’s World Cup giant slalom punched that reputation up a notch as the amazing Ted Ligety battled a second run course that baked under a bright sun and 48 degree temperatures to eke out a narrow 0.18 of a second victory. In the process, Ligety collected his his sixth GS win at the site, a World Cup record that eclipses Ingemar Stenmark, Didier Cuche, Hermann Maier, Aksel Lund Svindal, and Alberto Tomba, each of whom tallied five wins in one discipline at a single site over the course of their careers.
Interestingly enough, it was Austria’s Benjamin Raich finishing second on the day, charging from the 17th best finish in the first run to land on the World Cup podium for his first time since 2012. Had Ligey faltered, Raich would have joined the group of five time winners, as he and Ligety account for nine of the last 11 GS victories at Kranjska Gora.
The win also bumped Ligety within 50 points of GS standings leader Marcel Hirscher, the fourth place finisher on the day. Getting third and cementing his status as a legitimate World Cup podium contender in both slalom and now GS was Henrik Kristoffersen, the 19-year-old Norwegian Olympic medal winner and newly crowned double World Junior gold medalist. Second after the first run, Kristoffersen was brilliant on a second run that saw the surface change dramatically from top to bottom. He survived a hip check mid course to maintain his pace and finish just behind the veteran Raich.
“I was hoping I could be top five maybe, but to be on the podium is pretty amazing,” said Kristoffersen. “I knew I could do it, I was in a great position after the first run. I did a small mistake in the second one, it cost me some time but I am still very happy with how things turned out. I have always said that GS is as important as slalom for me so it was important to get it going.”
Many of the best in the business had significant difficulty with the second run; able to attack where the ice was holding at the top, but floundering mightily from the middle of the track to the finish, making for considerable drama as the race unfolded before those in the stands.
Max Blardone slid on his side through a gate. Alexis Pinturault got his head caught on a gate and was wrenched around violently but survived for a finish. Felix Neureuther went from a 0.09 lead at the second interval to a 0.74 deficit at the third. Hirscher dropped from a 0.65 advantage to 0.29 in the same section as Neureuther, then dipped to a 0.45 deficit in the final section, raising an eyebrow from Raich who did not expect his second run time to hold up as well as it did. Fritz Dopfer also lost three quarters of he second between the second and third timers.
So when Ligety committed a visible error on the final pitch, it certainly heightened the drama. As it was, his margin coming into the final pitch was enough to preserve his 27th career World Cup win and sixth win of the season including the Olympic GS gold. Although he made up 50 points on GS leader Hirscher and now sits 50 points down, he knows he will need some help to win his fifth title in the discipline.
“Now the GS title isn’t so far away, but it’s still kind of far away especially with the mistakes I’ve made so far this year. I’m just skiing race to race. You know, wins are always important even if they don’t go for the title,” Ligety said following the race.
With six wins in Kranjska Gora, Ligety obviously likes the hill, noting that he was able to cope with the disintegrating course because of his tactics.
“This hill is definitely a really cool hill. It has so much personality and it’s a really fun hill to ski on. It has the steep parts, it has rolls, it has a little bit of a gliding section, so it’s a true GS skier’s hill,” remarked Ligety. “I just try to stay ahead of the rut, as always. I’m not the kind of person that tries to cut off lines, so I just tried to ski smart and be clean as much as I could.”
Raich’s confidence is renewed by his result even if he wasn’t certain he could get there after his first run performance.
“I’m very happy, it was a goal for me to get a podium finish, I believed I could ski well enough,” Raich said. “My first run was not all that good but I knew that in these conditions anything could be possible. Maybe I didn’t really think I could make it all the way on the podium and that is quite a surprise.”
Tim Jitloff picked up the only other top-10 finish for North Americans in eighth, and Canadian Phil Brown collected the first GS World Cup points of his career by tying Bode Miller for 24th. Jitloff will now head to World Cup Finals for the first time in his career, having finished 19th in the GS standings this season.
Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, March 8, 2014
Equipment – skis/boots/bindings
1 Ligety, Head/Head/Head
2 Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
4 Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5 Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/
7 Faivre, Head/Head/Head
8 Jitloff, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
9 Missillier, Dynastar/Lange/Look
10 Sandell, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, March 8, 2014. … It is the 29th of 35 races on the men’s schedule with five races remaining. … It is the seventh of eight scheduled GS’s. … It is the 80th World Cup race hosted by Kranjska Gora… the 39th GS. … It is the 53rd annual Pokal Vitranc. … Ted Ligey has won the GS here five times including the last two consecutive. Warm (9c)… bright sunny day.
It is the 22nd career World Cup win for Ted Ligety. … He is second among U.S. men all-time. … It is his 21st World Cup GS win matching Vreni Schneider for third all-time behind Ingemar Stenmark (46) and Michael VonGruenigen (23). … It is the 267th U.S. World Cup win. … Ligety becomes the first in history to win six World Cup races in the same discipline at the same site. … It is his sixth win of the season (five World Cup and one Olympic). … He matches Jean-Claude Killy, Stenmark and Von Gruenigen as the only four men to win four or more GS’s in consecutive seasons.
It is the 92nd career World Cup podium for Benjamin Raich… his first of the season. … His last podium had come with a super G win at Crans-Montana Feb. 25, 2012. … It is his 10th career World Cup podium at Kranjska Gora.
It is the fifth career World Cup podium for Henrik Kristoffersen… his first in GS. … All have come this season. … He joins Lasse Kjus, Harald Strand Nilsen, Kjetil Jansrud and Kjetil Aamodt as Norwegians to podium in GS at Kranjska Gora.
Tim Jitloff matches his second best career World Cup result. He has been fifth in GS twice before (Sestriere Feb. 21, 2009 and Alta Badia Dec. 22, 2013). … He was eighth once previously, in combined (Bansko Feb. 26, 2011).
It is the first career World Cup score for Philip Brown. … The 255th for Bode Miller.
Aksel Lund Svindal (17th in race) maintains a 1046-1005 margin over Marcel Hirscher (fourth in race) for the lead of the World Cup overall standings with five races remaining. … Alexis Pinturualt (18th in race) is third overall with 787pts. … Ted Ligery is fourth with 729pts. … Bode Miller (24th in race) is seventh overall with 525pts. … Erik Guay (did not race) is top Canadian in 12th with 440pts.
Hirscher leads the GS standings 510-460 over Ligety with one race remaining. Pinturault is third with 378pts and cannot win the title. … Jitloff and Miller both qualify for World Cup Finals with Jitloff in 19th and Miller 20th.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|14||24||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA||1:14.01||1:18.45||2:32.46||+1.66||9.80|
|15||11||421669||HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:13.88||1:18.67||2:32.55||+1.75||10.33|
|17||8||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:14.15||1:18.45||2:32.60||+1.80||10.62|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|64||30149||SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier||1980||ARG|
|57||422275||JOHANSEN Ola Buer||1993||NOR|
|30||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|63||561278||REICH – POGLADIC Andraz||1993||SLO|