France’s Worley on top again in Aspen Winternational
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Tessa Worley was all but handed a World Cup giant slalom victory in 2008’s Aspen Winternational.
The 21-year-old from France experienced another dose of good fortune on a sun-drenched Saturday on Aspen Mountain.
Eighth after her first run, Worley was nearly flawless in the afternoon on famed Ruthie’s Run, vaulting into first place with a combined time of 2 minutes, 6.81 seconds. She hung on from there, withstanding a late push from morning leader Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, who finished just one-hundredth of a second behind. Rebensburg’s teammate Kathrin Hoelzl wound up third, a mere two-hundredths of a second off of Worley’s pace.
Rebensburg and Hoelzl, last year’s GS winner here, went 1-2 in Oct. 23’s season-opening GS in Solden, Austria.
“It was great to win, and win again here,” said Worley, pausing briefly to appease a group of young autograph seekers.
“I was worried. It was really close and it looked like [Rebensburg] was going to get me. I was worried close to the end, but once she didn’t get it, I felt really good. I was really pumped.”
Less than 1 second separated first from tenth place on yet another disappointing day for the U.S. One of only two Americans to qualify for a second run, Squaw Valley, Calif.’s Julia Mancuso was second after the first run but settled for eighth place. Vail’s Sarah Schleper finished 18th.
Fellow Vail resident Lindsey Vonn, the three-time defending World Cup Overall champion, appeared to lose her rhythm and skied off course 31 seconds into her first run. The 26-year-old was visibly frustrated as she stormed past a group of reporters and exited the finish area.
“[The second run] definitely wasn’t great. I had a little problem on top and felt like I lost my ski,” Mancuso said. “It was hard to get back in mentally.”
Added Schleper: “Coming out of the start I was fine, ripping it up. Then I had a huge mistake on that right-footed dogleg, kind of didn’t nail the top of turn at all, so I just slid way low. That’s right before the flattest section on the course. … I lost a lot of speed there, but my mind just said, ‘Turn it on. Come on, you can do it.’ I tried to nail the rest of the course, but it’s hard to make up a second deficit from the first run with a mistake like that.”
Worley trailed Rebensburg by .59 seconds after Run 1. While shade and a difficult course setting caused problems for scores of racers in the afternoon – three of the first five competitors out of the starting gates fell – Worley set the pace with aggressive, sound skiing.
“I said on my last run to do my best. Give everything you have and see what happens,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about the conditions. I was thinking about my skiing and winning.”
Worley led 2008’s Aspen Winternational GS with just one skier remaining. Italy’s Denise Karbon boasted a substantial lead and appeared primed to pull out a win after an impressive first split, but she lost her balance a few gates from the finish line and tumbled to snow.
Rebensburg, Saturday’s final competitor, stayed on her skis, but a slight bobble likely cost the 21-year-old a second World Cup win.
“I had a little mistake. I was so late with a gate. … I was slowed down in the flats. I’m angry about that,” she said. “It is tough going last because it’s so dark and the course is pretty bumpy. It was tough.
“I know I was pretty close. I thought, oh heck, one-hundredth of a second. I’m pretty happy. I can’t feel badly because I won [the GS at the 2010 Winter] Olympics by four-hundredths of a second.”
Vonn, who won downhill gold at Whistler in February, has had three largely forgettable performances here since her two fourth-place finishes in 2008. She hit a rock on her first run and wound up 36th in last November’s GS, then missed a gate in the following day’s slalom.
Her U.S. teammates did not fare much better Saturday. Megan McJames, Laurenne Ross and Leanne Smith failed to qualify for a second run.
An American has not finished on the podium in Aspen since November 2004, a span of 12 races.
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.