WENGEN 2005: Walchhofer wins Lauberhorn downhill; Bode Miller thirdMichael Walchhofer of Austria won the 75th running of the famed Lauberhorn downhill today, finding an extra tenth of a second on a course that is nearly three miles long. The oldest international ski race in the world, the Lauberhorn’s prestige is rivalled only by Kitzbuehel, which hosts its four events next week.
“The course is definitely my favorite,” said Walchhofer, who was flown from the finish area to the nearby village of Wengen after the race. “We were given a little treat where we went over the start. There were lots of emotions that came through me. I looked at the course, and I thought, ‘I was the fastest on this course.’”
Walchhofer, who came into the race with the lead in the World Cup downhill standings, had a time of 2:27.05. He beat his teammate Christoph Gruber by 0.09 seconds, while American Bode Miller finished third, just 0.18 off Walchhofer’s pace.
“Fatigue was a little bit of a factor,” said Miller, who had an early lead, but lost steam at the end. He said his legs were tired at the end of the course, and he had trouble holding his tuck dropping into the finish.
“People forget that your brain needs oxygenated blood to work also,” he said. “When you’re trying to make decisions about how to keep focus, and all your blood is in your legs and stomach and back, it’s like somebody holding their breath for two minutes and then trying to do math calculations really fast.
“It really was a great race,” he said. “These are the kind of races I wish we had all the time. When we do races like this, it makes it easier to sign autographs and give interviews.”
Over 27,000 fans attended the race, high in the Bernese Oberland in German-speaking Switzerland. Many more watched it on television. One Swiss station showed 12 straight hours of coverage, from six in the morning to six at night. The broadcast showed the most mundane of details — Bruno Kernen riding the train to the start for inspection, or Didier Defago eating spaghetti after blowing out of the course near the finish.
As this is the 75th anniversary of the first Lauberhorn race, even more ski racing celebrities than usual were on hand, taking in the bright sunshine. Among them were Karl Schranz and Toni Sailer of Austria, and Silvano Beltrametti, the Swiss downhiller who was partially paralyzed several years ago in a crash at Val d’Isere, France.
The first racer out of the gate was Finlay Mickle, the tall Scottish downhiller. He flew through through the long gliding sections on the top, and blasted over the picturesque Hundschopf jump, nearly crashing as one ski trailed out behind him.
Didier Defago, one of Switzerland’s best chances for a much-needed downhill victory, blew out before the final jump, as the course stacks up on the exhausted racers. Another athlete who went out there was Roland Fischnaller of Italy, who tumbled off the final jump and slid down the netting and into the finish.
Lasse Kjus of Norway appeared destined for his second podium in two days when he misjudged the landing of the Silberhorn jump and scrubbed speed. He ended up eighth.
The top recorded speed of the day was Alessandro Fattori of Italy, who clocked in at 154.94 kilometers per hour coming out of the Haneggschuss. That is the equivalent of just over 96 miles per hour.
Miller does it with his inimitable style
“I didn’t inspect today,” said Miller, in one of those statements that shocks the European journalists who cover the sport. “I didn’t inspect yesterday either. I knew where I wanted to go. There are some courses where you really need to know reference points if there’s blind turns. But with this course, the flow of the course is what really matters most.”
Miller says that some racers go down a course executing plans that they’ve carefully constructed, and others make educated decisions and adjustments as they go.
“Sometimes having two or three inspections really helps, but with this course the flow of the course is what really matters the most — how you link different sections together.”
Miller says that’s an easier for a racer to do by basing decisions on training runs, not inspection. “In inspection you’re always stopping, and you have to talk to coaches. You can look at where you want to be, but you don’t get a feel for the course.”
Walchhofer, on the other hand, was one of the last racers off the hill. Inspection was officially closed at 11:00 a.m., and Walchhofer and his teammate Hermann Maier crossed the finish line 10 seconds after that.
“When I inspect, it takes me a long time to really understand everything,” said Walchhofer. “I need this hour and a half. When I do my inspection, I’m completely concentrated on it. Afterwards I can relax a little bit.”
Miller says that it’s “for sure nicer to sleep in,” and gave reporters the run-down of his morning. “I slept in, got up at 9:00, went down and got on the [stationary] bike for a little while, spun, warmed up, had a little food, went back to my room, lazed around, stretched. It was a much nicer morning.”
75th Lauberhorn DH
Jan. 15, 2005
1. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 2:27.05
2. Christoph Gruber, AUT 2:27.14
3. Bode Miller, USA 2:27.23
4. Hermann Maier, AUT 2:27.67
5. Werner Franz, AUT 2:27.77
6. Kurt Sulzenbacher, ITA 2:28.16
7. Peter Fill, ITA 2:28.19
8. Lasse Kjus, NOR 2:28.31
8. Alessandro Fattori, ITA 2:28.31
10. Klaus Kroell, AUT 2:28.43
11. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 2:28.53
12. Fritz Strobl, AUT 2:28.65
13. Johan Grugger, AUT 2:28.77
14. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 2:28.98
15. Thomas Graggaber, AUT 2:29.01
16. Silvan Zurbriggen, SUI 2:29.02
17. Patrik Jaerbyn, SWE 2:29.10
18. Finlay Mickel, GBR 2:29.18
19. Bjarne Solbakken, NOR 2:29.25
20. Bruno Kernen, SUI 2:29.34
20. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:29.34
22. Juerg Gruenenfelder, SUI 2:29.39
23. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 2:29.40
24. Marco Buechel, LIE 2:29.41
25. Mario Scheiber, AUT 2:29.61
26. Manuel Osborn-Paradis, CAN 2:29.63
27. Max Rauffer, GER 2:29.84
28. Erik Guay, CAN 2:29.86
29. Yannick Bertrand, FRA 2:30.07
30. Florian Eckert, GER 2:30.09
other North Americans:
34. Jakub Fiala, USA 2:30.57
39. Justin Johnson, USA 2:31.29
44. John Kucera, CAN 2:32.12
45. David Anderson, CAN 2:33.71
DNS: Jeff Hume, CAN.
By Hank McKee
Men’s Downhill, Wengen, Jan. 15, 2005 Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Gruber, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3 Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4 Maier, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5 Franz, Blizzard/Lange/Marker
6 Sulzenbacher, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
7 Fill, Dynastar/Tecnica/Look
8 Kjus, Dynastar/Atomic/Look
8 Fattori, Fischer/Lange/Tyrolia
10 Kroell, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
Men’s DH, Wengen, Switzerland, Jan. 15, 2005. … It is the 21st race on the men’s 35 race (plus two combined) World Cup schedule. … It is the seventh of 11 scheduled downhills. … It is the 75th running of the Lauberhorn downhill. … The win is by less than a tenth of a second over a 4,465m course. … The top five skiers are within the same second.
It is the fourth career win for Michael Walchhofer. … his second in downhill. … It is his second win of the season and first in DH. … He is one of 11 Austrians to have won a World Cup DH at Wengen, joining a rarified list. … He has been on the podium in six of the seven DHs this season.
It is the eighth career podium for Christoph Gruber. … His first of the season.
It is the 35th career podium for Bode Miller. … His tenth of the season. … It is his third career DH podium… all of them this season. … Only Bill Johnson, Kyle
Rasmussen and Daron Rahlves among Americans have placed better in a Wengen DH.
It is the second career scoring result for Manuel Osborn-Paradis. … both this season. … both in DH. … It is the 19th scoring result for Erik Guay. … His ninth of the season.
Bode Miller holds the overall standings lead 1048-790 for Benjamin Raich (did not race). … Darren Rahlves (did not race) is next best American in fifth with 436pts. … Michael Walchhofer leads the DH standings 431-378 for Miller. … Rahlves is fourth at 264. …
The Austrians slam the Nation Cup points with four of the top five and eight in the top 15, but the Italians also score well with four in the top 11 … The over team lead is 8317-3930 Austria over the U.S…. Italy is third at 2954. … In men’s standings Austria leads Italy 4761-190 with the U.S. third at 1856.