Wengen: Giorgio Rocca remains undefeated with fifth consecutive slalom win


Wengen: Giorgio Rocca remains undefeated with fifth consecutive slalom winWENGEN, Switzerland – Giorgio Rocca of Italy got lucky on Sunday and remains undefeated in slalom after winning at Wengen. Behind him on the podium were Kalle Palander of Finland and Alois Vogl of Germany.

“I was thinking that if he wins the next two slaloms, I would not like to be him going into the Olympics,” said Palander of Rocca. “It’s a lot of pressure for him at the moment.”

Benni Raich of Austria, who has re-discovered the DNF this season, won the first run but skied out on the second run, handing the win to Rocca.

“My first victory was in Wengen in 2002, and from then on I started winning, but it was sporadically,” Rocca said. “I always had a dream that I could win in a row, but it’s not happening until now.”

Rocca has won 11 races in his career, including the Chamonix race in 2005 where he won by 1.33 seconds, the largest single margin of the season.

Third place went to Vogl, who has stopped eating any foods with gluten and said that is the reason for his success.

Ted Ligety was fifth and Bode Miller eighth. No other Americans scored. Miller was 20th in the first run, but won the second.

Ligety was in third after the first run, but misnegotiated one of the course’s several breakovers and got behind, missing a chance at his fourth podium of the season.

No American has won the Wengen slalom since Phil Mahre beat Ingemar Stenmark here in 1982. Tyler Palmer won it in 1971.

Raich never really got going in run No. 2, straddling the third gate out of the start, sending the Italian loyalists into a frenzy at the finish.

‘Yeah, it’s very disappointing,” Raich said. “I was in good shape today. It was important for me to win this race. I’m sad of course.’

Rocca also won at Beaver Creek, Madonna di Campiglio, Kranjska Gora and Adelboden.

The Wengen slalom uses the same finish area as the downhill, coming into the arena from the skiers’ right. Cascading down a staircase-like series of pitches and shelves, it weaves between log cabins used by herdsmen who use this slope for cattle grazing in the summers.

The first-run course setter was U.S. Ski Team coach Greg Needell, and the second run gates were placed by Norway’s Oivind Rognmo.

Though enthuasiastic, the crowd of 8,600 was much smaller Sunday than it was for Saturday’s downhill. But while the Wengen slalom is not as notorious as the idiosyncratic downhill with which it shares a finish area, it is a coveted trophy for slalom skiers due to its steepness, big crowds and ample prize money.

Miller was upbeat after his unlikely top 10. ‘I just made some big changes to my boots, and I think it just takes some time’ said Miller, who had an interesting week. ‘Had I made the change that I will make for Kitzbuhel, I think I had the chance to win this race.”

Like Daron Rahlves, who switched skis before winning Saturday’s downhill, Miller pulled off a ski switch between first and second runs. On the first run, Miller got sideways after a tight turn and brushed his right hip on the snow, pulling off another typical Miller salvage operation.

‘My first run was better except for that huge mistake, which cost me more than a second in three gates,” he said. “We made a change in between runs to a different ski, and that was great. But also tough. I had no training, nothing. I hadn’t skied on that ski in a long time. I kicked straight out of the gate on a brand totally different ski.’

Tom Rothrock finished 17th on the first run, but skied out and hiked on the second run, which was full of good-guy blowouts (Michael Janyk of Canada and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway also had big trouble that ruined their chances). ‘One little mishap and you’re out in slalom,” Rothrock said. “It happens like that. … On a little fallaway turn I got on the inside there and you’re done for the day.’

Chip Knight and Jimmy Cochran, dueling for one of the American start positions at the upcoming Olympics, finished a hundredth apart on the first run but two-tenths of a second too slow to qualify for the second run (they were 34th and 35th). Erik Schlopy, stuck with bib No. 76 and tough conditions, finished only 46th on that run.

Ligety is the only American man who has clinched a position on the U.S. Ski Team’s four-man Olympic slalom team. He maintained his second-place World Cup slalom standing despite a subpar second run Sunday.

‘It was a tough run,” he said. “I didn’t ski very many clean sections at all. I came over the pitch, and I missed it. Instead of going into the pitch then come over the pitch, I stepped my downhill ski onto my uphill ski … it was a pretty haggard run the whole way down, not very many clean turns, so I was a little disappointed in my skiing. But fifth isn’t bad making that many mistakes.”

Rothrock, Knight, Cochran and Miller are all trying to qualify in the objective criteria (essentially a podium, two top 10s or three top 20s). Before Sunday’s race, Rothrock had a 16th at Beaver Creek, Knight a 17th at Adelboden and Cochran a 15th at Kranjska Gora. ‘Second run was definitely on the harder side of the hill, steeper and more fallaway turns, a little icier too,” Rothrock said.

Next weekend’s Kitzbuehel slalom will be crucial for his Torino hopes. “I’m skiing good but I’m not finishing very well right now in slalom. I’ve got to step it up,” Rothrock said.

Vogl, who last year ended a 14-year draught for German slalom wins, was second on the first run but got bumped back a notch after Palander’s intense second-run attack.

This was the fifth of 10 slaloms on the men’s World Cup calendar this year. The first was at Beaver Creek on Dec. 4, which was followed by Madonna di Campiglio (Dec. 12) and Kranjska Gora (Dec. 22). A week ago the men raced at Adelboden, Switzerland (Jan. 8). Next up are Kitzbuehel, Austria (Jan. 22); Schladming, Austria (a night race on Jan. 24); Shigakogen, Japan (two races on March 10 and 11); and Are, Sweden (at Finals, March 19).

From here the men’s World Cup moves to what is perhaps the only stop on the tour that matches Wengen’s tradition and notoriety: Kitzbuehel, Austria. There the racers will compete in super G, downhill and slalom on Jan. 20, 21 and 22 (with the weekend’s downhill and slalom counting for points as a combined). Skiracing.com will be on the scene throughout the week, offering several stories a day.
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Ski Racing’s Don Cameron contributed to this report.

76th Lauberhorn
Men’s slalom
Wengen, Switzerland
Jan. 15, 2006

1. Giorgio Rocca, ITA 1:42.28
2. Kalle Palander, FIN 1:42.48
3. Alois Vogl, GER 1:42.79
4. Kentaro Minagawa, JPN 1:42.90
5. Ted Ligety, USA 1:42.93
6. Reinfried Herbst, AUT 1:43.21
7. Andre Myhrer, SWE 1:43.57
8. Bode Miller, USA 1:43.67
9. Jean-Pierre Vidal, FRA 1:44.28
10. Akse
l Lund Svindal, NOR 1:44.33
11. Markus Larsson, SWE 1:44.44
12. Stephane Tissot, FRA 1:44.53
13. Daniel Albrecht, SUI 1:44.65
14. Cristian Deville, ITA 1:44.94
15. Andreas Omminger, AUT 1:44.96
16. Manfred Pranger, AUT 1:44.99
17. Martin Marinac, AUT 1:45.20
18. Andrej Sporn, SLO 1:45.62
19. Ales Gorza, SLO 1:45.71
20. Kjetil Jansrud, NOR 1:48.06
21. Jukka Leino, FIN 1:49.78
22. Bernard Vajdic, SLO 1:51.83
23. Marc Gini, SUI 1:52.21
24. Michael Janyk, CAN 1:54.77
Other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Chip Knight, James Cochran, Erik SChlopy, USA; Julien Cousineau, Jean-Philippe Roy, Ryan Semple, Patrick Biggs, CAN.
DNF 1st: Thomas Grandi, CAN.
DNF 2nd: Tom Rothrock, USA.

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s slalom, Wengen, Jan. 15, 2006

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Rocca, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Palander, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Vogl, Volkl/Lange/Salomon
4. Minagawa, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
5. Ligety, Volkl/Nordica/Marker
6. Herbst, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
7. Myhrer, Nordica/Nordica/
8. Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Vidal, Dynastar/Lange/Look
10. Svindal, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

Men’s slalom, Wengen, Switzerland, Jan. 15, 2006. … It is the 21st event of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … It is the fifth of 10 scheduled slaloms. … It is the 27th World Cup slalom at Wengen.

It is the 11th career World Cup win for Giorgio Rocca, all in slalom. … He is perfect through five slaloms this season. … Only Vreni Schneider (’89 season) has completed a perfect season in slalom. … He also won at Wengen Jan. 19, 2003.

It is the 22nd career podium for Kalle Palander. … His fourth of the season. … It is his best result of the season after three thirds, (two in GS one in SL). … His best previous mark at Wengen had been fourth in 2003.

It is the fourth career podium for Alois Vogl out of 46 career scoring finishes. … His only win came in slalom at Wengen last season (Jan. 16, 2005). … It is his second scoring result of the season, the other a ninth in Adelboden slalom.. … He is 33, from Lohberg, and has been racing World Cup for a dozen years.

Ted Ligety has finished in the top 10 in seven of eight events completed this season. … This was his fourth top-five finish of the season and his career. … It is the ninth top 10 of the season for Bode Miller. … His first completed slalom of the season, and first since the now-infamous 2005 season finale at Lenzerheide March 13, 2005, after he had clinched the title.

The race had no effect on the top of the standings. … World Cup overall leader Benjamin Raich (706 points) did not finish and Michael Walchhofer (600 points) and Daron Rahlves (589), did not race. … Rocca has an enormous lead in the slalom standings 500-285 over Ted Ligety. … Palander is third at 230. … Rocca is fifth on the overall standings list with 536 points, behind Bode Miller’s 545. … Winning margin is two-tenths of a second. … Top six are within the same second. … Top eighth within two seconds. … Final three finishers are more than nine seconds out and are not awarded World Cup points.

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