SAALBACH-HINTERGLEMM, Austria – Vincent Kriechmayr ended his two-year-long victory drought in men’s World Cup downhills by winning Saturday, three weeks after he took the world title in the discipline.
Wearing bib No. 1, the Austrian opened the race on the Schneekristall course with a near-flawless run.
Kriechmayr found the fastest line coming out of the start gate, as most of his rivals were already a few tenths of a second behind at the first split.
Beat Feuz, who leads the downhill season standings, came closest but the Swiss skier finished 0.17 off the lead.
“You can always do better but it was a good run,” Kriechmayr said. “I had the right tactics at the start and could carry my pace into the middle section.”
Last month, Kriechmayr became the first skier to win gold in both downhill and super-G at world championships since American standout Bode Miller did it in 2005.
“I wanted to win a downhill on the World Cup circuit again to show everyone that I am no accidental world champion,” Kriechmayr said.
The Austrian had two previous downhill wins on the World Cup but none since his triumph in Wengen, Switzerland, in January 2019.
Matthias Mayer – also Austrian – was 0.27 behind in third.
Feuz increased his lead over Mayer in the discipline standings to 68 points, with only the season-ending downhill at the World Cup Finals remaining. A race win is worth 100 points.
“I’m not a genius in mathematics, but I believe everything is still possible,” Feuz said.
Mayer, however, rather thought his chances were gone.
“I think we can congratulate Beat. He is an extremely consistent downhiller. He’s not going to give this away,” said Mayer, who was the 2014 Olympic champion.
Feuz can become the second skier to earn the downhill globe in four straight seasons. Only Austrian great Franz Klammer managed that feat once, in the 1970s.
Middlebury racer Erik Arvidsson, who is making a comeback in speed and recently recorded a pair of wins on the Europa Cup in downhill, had by far the best result of his career in eighth. He had previously never finished inside the top 30.
“Obviously today was pretty incredible for me, I never could have imagined that I could have had a result like this at the beginning of this season, but going into the week, the momentum has definitely been building,” said Arvidsson. “In the first training run, I felt like I could pull it together on this hill and put down a good run. The top is really technical and has a lot of turns, which definitely suits my style, and I just had to clean up some things on the flats, and I was able to do that today and put together a good run.”
Arvidsson is technically an independent but has been working closely with the ski team as an invitee this season. Head men’s speed coach Randy Pelkey, who coached Arvidsson at the development level for three years and coached him to gold at world juniors, was eager to take him in as an invitee, knowing his potential.
“His progression this year has been to get quality repetition on speed skis while keeping the GS going,” said Pelkey. “We made a several-year plan and he has been taking the steps to learn and improve every chance he gets. We are still focused on the process and enjoying that process.”
Bryce Bennet, who had an opportunity to train on the hill in the period since world champs, finished 10th, his second best result of the season.
Two Canadians finished in the top 30, with Jeff Read 1.98 seconds behind in 23rd and Brodie Seger in 26th.
Dominik Paris, who won the last World Cup downhill before the worlds, trailed by 0.42 in fourth. The Italian led Kriechmayr by 0.07 seconds in Friday’s downhill until that race was stopped after nine starters because of fog and snowfall.
The weather improved overnight and conditions were perfect for Saturday’s race.
A super-G on Sunday will conclude the race weekend at the Austrian resort, which will host the worlds in 2025.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard press office contributed to this report.
World Cup – Men’s Downhill – Saalbach – March 6, 2021