BEAVER CREEK - Welcome to the New Guy Club, also known as the Birds of Prey World Cup super-G race.
For the fifth time in 10 years, and nine races over that span, Beaver Creek's super-G was conquered by a first-time World Cup winner as Italy's Matteo Marsaglia notched his first World Cup triumph Saturday with a time of 1 minute, 14.68 seconds, followed Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (1:14.95) and Austria's Hannes Reichelt (1:15.38).
"Amazing," Marsaglia said. "It's my first victory, my first podium. I know I can do it on this slope. I really like this slope. ... After inspection today, I was liking a lot this setting. I tried to push everything, more than 100 percent, for sure."
That's two wins in as many days for the Italians, as Christof Innerhofer took the downhill Friday. Marsaglia was ninth in last weekend's Lake Louise, Alberta, super-G. His two best previous finishes had been fourth places in Sochi, Russia, (super-combined) and Schladming, Austria, (super-G) last season.
If one believes in omens, those are good places to have the best finishes of a young career - Schladming, site of this season's World Alpine Ski Championships, Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Beaver Creek, the host of the 2015 Worlds.
Marsaglia skied 12th and took the lead from Reichelt. And there he sat and sat and sat on the hot seat. France's Alexis Pinturault had a particularly fast start before ending as a DNF. Marsaglia's teammate Peter Fill was the last serious challenge from the top 30 before he made a mistake on Screech Owl.
"I'm still nervous," said Marsaglia, while watching racers wearing 40s and higher. "I'm waiting for the end."
It's official, Matteo.
And he is the second first-time winner in super-G at Birds of Prey in as many years - Switzerland's Sandro Viletta won this race last year for his first tour triumph. That's also five times a newbie has won in the last nine runnings of the discipline, dating back to 2003 - super-G was not contested in 2006. Ironically, Reichelt, Saturday's bronze medalist, "repeated" here in 2005, with his first win, and 2007, his second.
As for why first time winners tend to break out at the Beaver Creek super-G, Svindal has a theory.
"There are a lot of risks. It's a high tempo. It's very easy to go out," said Svindal, who has the 2008 Birds of Prey super-G as one of his 18 World Cup wins. "I think that's why younger guys starting in the front risk a lot because they're like, 'This is going to work or it's not going to work.' It might be less than a 50-50 chance, but they go for it. I think if you look at the stats, we have a lot guys doing that."
On the podium ... again
Svindal definitely qualifies as an authority all things ski racing these days. He swept the Lake Louise downhill and super-G last weekend and he's finished second in those same events here. That's vaulted him into the World Cup overall lead with 360 points, 140 ahead of American Ted Ligety, who had an impressive fourth-place finish in Saturday's super-G.
"It's good. I'm enjoying it," the Norwegian said. "Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you're third or fourth. The race happens with the fight for the top few places. If you're there, it's a good day."
Svindal's chance for a win likely went by the boards with a small error on Screech Owl. That turn threw a lot of the field into a bad line for the Golden Eagle Jump, the third-to-last of the course, and the ensuing compression, appropriately known as The Abyss.
While Svindal was perfectly clear that Saturday's course was fair when asked, that section was tough for him.
"I thought the gates were set to make the rolls as tough as possible, especially on the bottom," he said. "I think I had a great line going through that - I carried a lot of heat- but I couldn't keep the skis on snow because I was hitting terrain instead of snow."
Home away from home
Reichelt is the latest Austrian to fall in love with Beaver Creek. His "worst" finish in a Birds of Prey super-G during his career has been 13th in 2010. Otherwise, his finishes have been first, first, 10th, fifth and third.
"I like this course, especially in super-G," Reichelt said. "If I had bad races before, I can come here to the super-G and do a good race. That's really fun. It's nice that this discipline is on the (schedule). It helps me get in shape. ..."
"It was a really tough course. I had two big mistakes, especially at the bottom. At the compression, I was too straight and lost too much time on Marsaglia. That's the seven-tenths (of a second)."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.