Gone with the wind
BEAVER CREEK – Just imagine the odds on picking the winner’s podium for Thursday’s super G on the formidable Birds of Prey course.A person who picked Austria’s Hannes Reichelt to win, Canada’s Erik Guay for silver and Austria’s Matthias Lanzinger for a bronze would likely have enough money to buy Beaver Creek.But that was the case on a very snowy Thursday at the 2005 Birds of Prey opener. Reichelt, whose greatest accomplishment to date was a second at Val Gardena, Italy, in 2003, won his first World Cup race just six months after blowing out his left knee in March. “It’s very fun to win six or seven months after that accident,” Reichelt said. “… I tried to come in the top 10 because Lake Louise, [Alberta, I was] eighth. To win today, it’s perfect. I’m only smiling and happy.”In doing so, he becomes the second consecutive surprise Austrian winner at the Birds of Prey super G. Stephan Goergl pulled the trick last year.Reichelt finished in 1 minute, 17.33 seconds. That was just four-hundredths of a second ahead of Guay, who matched his career-best second-place finish at Lake Louise two years ago.
“This is great. It sort of builds your confidence a lot,” Guay said. “That’s really what I was looking for, especially coming off Lake Louise. I’m just hoping I can build on it every run.”And from where did Lanzinger come? In a continuing testament to the depth of the Austrian Ski Team, Lanzinger’s biggest accomplishment previous to Thursday had been the 2003-04 Europa Cup overall title. Now, he has his first World Cup podium.”The conditions were very tough today, but I knew I had to get my best and to go down,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how the conditions are. I tried this, and everything was great, and the run was good. It’s the most beautiful day in my life today.”Youth was definitely served Thursday. Reichelt is 25, while Guay is 24. Lanzinger turns 25 next week.”It’s a very nice birthday present,” Lanzinger said with a smile.This youthful trio distanced itself from the pack of favorites by half a second. Reichelt, Guay and Lanzinger were bunched within sixteen-hundredths of a second. Fourth-place finisher Aksel Lund Svindal was 0.67 behind Reichelt in 1:18.
Daron Rahlves was the top American in fifth (1:18.22). Reichelt (bib No. 5) and Lanzinger (No. 7) ran early. Guay (No. 17) was in the middle of the pack. The trio watched as such favorites as Bode Miller (DNF), Austria’s Hermann Maier (eighth, 1:18.27), and teammates Michael Walchhofer (13th, 1:18.71) and Benjamin Raich (18th, 1:19.08) fell by the wayside.Switzerland’s Didier Defago was sixth, followed by Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Maier and Italy’s Patrick Staudacher. Switzerland’s Tobias Gruenenfelder rounded out the top 10.Reichelt logged the fastest interval between the Talon turn, Thursday’s grim reaper, and the Pumphouse turn and was able to maintain his speed better than the field the rest of the way down.”The first part, there was a lot of wind, so you have to get very tucked down,” he said. “In the middle area before the [Golden] Eagle jump, there was a very tough right turn before the flat area, so you had [to have] a lot of speed or you’ll lose a lot of time.”Despite the impressive performance under severe conditions, Reichelt felt his run contained a few mistakes.
“No, it was not perfect,” the champ said. “I had two bigger mistakes. But in super G, it’s hard to say if it’s fast or soft. But the conditions are hard, so maybe it’s OK when you make some mistakes.”Lanzinger is not thinking about the Turin Olympics. He’s more concerned about getting a starting spot on the World Cup Tour. Welcome to the rigors of the Austrian Ski Team.”The Olympic team I don’t care about,” he said. “My most problem is that I get a spot on our team because the Austrian team is so good. The toughest [thing] is to have a spot. That was my plan. … I am very lucky I get the spot for this race. Today, I can’t describe the feeling.”Today was very important to me for my spot. In the team, the coaches know [I] could be fast and get [me] other chances.”Lanzinger made Guay the cream in the Austrian Oreo cookie on the podium, and that made the bronze medalist pleased.”I’m very happy about Hannes because we have a very good relationship,” Lanzinger said. “We’re good friends. I’m very happy for him. I have no problem with the sixteen-hundredths [of a] second. I am very happy about his win.”The Birds of Prey continues with the downhill at 11 a.m. today, weather permitting.
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Perhaps, Radamus’ brief moment on top was a preview of coming attractions. He hopes so. Radamus certainly got the season off to a great start by finishing 27th in the opener.