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World Cup asides … Zagreb and Lienz

ZAGREB, Croatia – The snow is finally falling in Zagreb, which should keep the course in good shape for Wednesday’s World Cup men’s night slalom.

As far as preparation goes, organizers of the Snow Queen Trophy races are about as good as it gets.

Course crews went without sleep for days on end preparing the course for Sunday’s women’s race after 10 days of rain, and in general, the Croats are just extremely helpful, organized, friendly people. And the food is excellent, too.

Some of the ladies had interesting ideas about the World Cup program in general, however.

The last two stops, Lienz and Zagreb, present two of the longest slalom courses on the women’s tour. Most racers commented on how the length of the courses present the biggest challenge, and some racers – Anna Goodman, for one, who crashed right before the finish line in Zagreb, tearing her right knee ligaments and sidelining herself for the season, commented that perhaps it’s dangerous to have such long slalom courses. She pointed out that almost every woman who crashed or lost their momentum in Zagreb and Lienz did so at the bottom of the course, due to exhaustion.

Also, Maria Riesch would like to see the FIS rearrange the schedule next season  to make the lineup of races easier on the all-arounders. Although the season begins with tech races, throughout December and January, the all-discpline skiers are changing from speed to tech races almost every weekend.

“The race program is switching the disciplines all the time,” Riesch said after the Zagreb race on Sunday, in which she finished fourth. “You never have like two tech events in a row or two downhill weekends. it’s always switching from one week to the other and that’s the hardest for us because we always have to find the new feeling. We never get used to one. That would be my wish for New Year’s … that the FIS is doing the schedule more for the all-arounders. We have the toughest program anyway, so maybe they should suit better for us.”

Sure enough, the podium finishers in both Zagreb and Lienz were all tech specialists, while (besides Riesch and Tina Maze) most of the all-arounders struggled at both venues.

All-arounder Lindsey Vonn is very excited to get back to speed events as downhill training for her and the rest of the World Cup speed racers and all-arounders begins Wednesday in Haus im Ennstal, Austria.

After her crash in the giant slalom in Lienz (which, by the way, happened within a few gates from the finish), Vonn struggled to find focus in the following day’s slalom and in Zagreb. With her left arm in a brace, she said smacking slalom gates is about the worst thing she could do with her injury (a deep bone bruise that she said was causing shooting pain in her hand and wrist). She said in spite of her pain, the hand and arm shouldn’t bother her nearly as much in speed events.

“I’m definitely excited to ski some speed now and give my hand some rest,” she said after the Zagreb race. “The slalom doesn’t help. It’s just going to be starting that will be hard, but in the training runs I don’t have to push out of the start. I just have to save up my energy for the race start and then it will be OK. That’s what I’m hoping.”

Racing begins on Friday in Haus im Ennstal with the downhill rescheduled from a cancellation in Val d’Isere and continues with another downhill Saturday and super G Sunday. Then the race program moves to slalom again two days later in Flauchau, Austria.

- Shauna Farnell

Photo: (GEPA) Marlies Schild, close to winning the Snow Queen trophy in Zagreb, crashes just before the finish line on Sunday.

Shauna Farnell

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