Val d’Isere: Katja Wirth wins snowy second training run; Stacey Cook fourthVAL D’ISERE, FRANCE – Katja Wirth of Austria won the final training run for Saturday’s women’s World Cup downhill in Val d’Isere, France, finishing 13-hundredths of a second faster than Croatia’s Janica Kostelic on Friday.
No sooner had the training run started than snow began to fall on the course. By the end of the training run, big flakes were blanketing the hill where the women hope to race this weekend (Saturday’s downhill and a super G on Sunday). By the end of the run, racers were reporting wind gusts near the start.
Stacey Cook, a former www.skiracing.com columnist, finished fourth. Last season was Cook’s first on the World Cup, but the Californian crashed hard in January at Santa Caterina and sat out most of the season with a serious concussion that affected her memory for months.
‘I definitely had a good start in Lake Louise, and I’ve tried to carry some of the momentum I gained from that on’ said Cook, who said maturity has helped her get over a problem she had of training well but not carrying the performance over to races. ‘I’ve actually learned from my mistakes instead of doing them over and over again.’
Among the other Americans in the race, Caroline Lalive had the next-best finish in the run, finishing seventh. Lindsey Kildow was ninth, Bryna McCarty 14th, Kirsten Clark 15th, Julia Mancuso 20th and Libby Ludlow 42nd after running in the worst of the snowstorm.
Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, who won the race’s only other training run on Thursday, was 22nd on Friday. Several athletes stood up before the finish line to give themselves a more favorable seeding in the Saturday race.
On Thursday night, women’s World Cup race director Atle Skaardal (who is new to the job this year), said forecasts called for anywhere from 15 to 50 centimeters of snow on Friday afternoon and Saturday.
Last year the Val d’Isere races were disrupted by a blizzard that knocked down fencing and led to the cancellation of all racing (the events were ultimately made up at Santa Caterina, Italy).
No American woman has ever won a World Cup at Val d’Isere. The last best result was Picabo Street’s second-place finish in 1996. Jean Saubert won the giant slalom and combined in 1963, but that was in the pre-World Cup era.
Men raced super G in Val Gardena
While the women were training in Val d’Isere, the men were preparing to race super G at the other Val – Val Gardena, also known by it’s German name, Groeden. Last year it was eventual title winner Michael Walchhofer of Austria who won the super G there, leading an Austrian sweep of the podium.
It is a big weekend on the World Cup. While the women will race a downhill (Saturday) and super G (Sunday) at Val d’Isere, the men’s World Cup action will include a super G on Friday, the downhill on the famous Saslong course Saturday and a helicopter flight over the pass for Sunday’s giant slalom at Alta Badia – one of the most difficult and prestigious giant slaloms on the circuit.