The 50th Val Gardena downhill was blown away.
A pair of Frenchmen were in the lead of the race from a lowered start, but the wind was the winner at Val Gardena, Italy Saturday (Dec. 17). What started out as a beautiful morning for a ski race slowly morphed into an unfair test and then a dangerous one as winds continued to increase blowing up hill and potentially under the skis of racers on the most jump filled course on the World Cup circuit.
Frenchmen Johan Clarey and Adrien Theaux were in control of the race with Patrick Kueng of Switzerland third and Canada’s Erik Guay fourth, but when the wind kicked into gear while the cream of the Cup’s downhiller’s started down it was apparent the race was in jeopardy.
The wind seemed particularly strong blowing up hill at the tricky Ciaslat section and after the defending downhill champ, Didier Cuche, finished dead last, the wind delay was called for. If anything, the wind increased during the delay. An effort was made to restart after a wait of 30 plus minutes. Three more top skiers, Beat Feuz, Aksel Lund Svindal and Klaus Kroell, skied with Kroell recording the best finish in eighth. Bode Miller, standing in the start-house, backed away and clicked out of his bindings.
Kroell, the last racer down the hill said, “The wind conditions were very difficult. It is good that the jury stopped the race.”
Feuz, winner of the super G on friday agreed: “You have no chance with this wind. It is best for all that this race has been cancelled.”
The French skiers leading the event had a different perspective. “I could cry,” said Clarey. “The conditions were changeable, but by no means dangerous.”
photo by Gepa