Mancuso and Cochran shine as USST uses time trials to select Soelden starters


Mancuso and Cochran shine as USST uses time trials to select Soelden startersThe U.S. Ski Team is in Soelden, zeroing in on its starting lineup for the opening races of the alpine World Cup. The women’s team held qualifying time trials on Wednesday, and the men’s team followed suit today. Julia Mancuso and Jimmy Cochran were the standouts.

The fastest skiing in the women’s inter-squad time trials deciding the lineup went to Julia Mancuso, a four-time winner of the Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year Award. Mancuso, now 20, has greatly improved her strength and balance this summer, according to her coach, Trevor Wagner, who spoke from the team’s hotel in Sölden on Wednesday night after overseeing the time trials.

‘She’s probably stronger than she’s ever been’ said Wagner, ‘so she’s able to ski the line she wants to. She’s been looking at that line for awhile now, knowing it’s the fastest the way a car driver knows what line is the fastest, but now she has the strength and the technique to get there.’

Meanwhile the competition was fierce on Rettenbach glacier today, as the powerful American tech team conducted it’s own time trials. The unforgiving scenario featured six men competing for a single open start position for the first World Cup of the season. Jimmy Cochran was the winner in that battle, sidelining Tom Rothrock, Chip Knight, Jeffrey Harrison, Ted Ligety and Jesse Marshall.

‘Jimmy is our man, and it makes sense that our national champion is poised to be the next to break through on the World Cup’ said Mike Morin, the head GS/SL coach for the men’s alpine team. ‘It’s no surprise. He was the fastest skier coming out of our camp in New Zealand, and he’s been tinkering with his equipment set-up since then, but for sure he’s a fierce competitor and within an instant of getting on the course he had switched gears. He’s a keeper, that guy.’

Race simulation on the Rettenbach glacier

Both the women’s and men’s teams conducted their time trials on the very same race hill where the athletes will compete on October 23 and 24. The women had Austrians conducting their own time trials on separate lanes to the outside of their own (Austrian men on one side, Austrian women on the other). They also had Finland’s GS masters Kalle Palander and Sami Uotila as forerunners, and Sonja Nef following behind on every run.

When the men took over the next day, Morin reports, conditions were extremely hard a bumpy. Breaking with last year’s model, the men’s team staged it’s qualifying time trial with just one run, rather than a best-of-two format. ‘We’re really looking to put some pressure on these guys’ says Morin. ‘We want to simulate that feel of a World Cup, where you have to perform to get another chance. It was really effective.’

The time trials are the U.S. Ski Team’s way of filling World Cup quota spots that are open to anyone. Most of the team’s stars have qualified for Soelden prior to the time trials, based on a berth in the top-30 world ranking for that discipline. So Bode Miller, Erik Schlopy, Dane Spencer and Daron Rahlves were in the race, but their participation next Sunday wasn’t on the line. They finished in a cluster today coaches had still not processed their times with Cochran and the other aspirants not far behind.

Meanwhile, the three women who enjoyed automatic quota spots for the women’s team Kirsten Clark, Sarah Schleper and Kristina Koznick did not compete in the inter-team qualifying time trials, leaving the younger group to duke it out for the last five spots. USST coaches set two separate courses, and athletes took two runs on each taking their fastest time from each pair of runs and adding them together. The fastest times, in order, were Mancuso, Resi Stiegler, Caroline Lalive, Lindsey Kildow and Libby Ludlow. Each will start on October 23. Sarah Schleper is still waiting to decide whether she’ll start, as is Kirsten Clark.

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