Hannes Reichelt is king again at Beaver Creek
Birds of Prey 2014
Giant slalom, 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
BEAVER CREEK — On Saturday, Austria’s Hannes Reichelt found himself in a place he’d been many times before — the top of the podium at Beaver Creek.
At the Birds of Prey World Cup, the 34-year-old Reichelt notched another Beaver Creek top-tree finish in the super-G race. It marked his sixth career podium in Beaver Creek, where he has won twice before in 2005 and 2007.
“We have a nice relationship – especially in super-G,” he said of the mountain. “I’m always happy to come back to Beaver Creek. There are great moments here, and now there’s one more that I can remember.”
Reichelt won by nearly a half-second margin with a time of 1 minute, 12.78 seconds. The podium was rounded out by Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud with a time of 1:13.30 in second and France’s Alexis Pinturault in third with a time of 1:13.40.
Trouble on course
Saturday’s super-G was marked by a number of near crashes, thanks to sharp, off-camber slopes and sometimes nearly blind turns. A number of the very best super-G racers were thrown off their lines, and the number of competitors who did not finish due to various bobbles, missed gates and crashes was telling — 19 out of 65 racers.
A sharp right footer on a portion called Russi’s Ride had some racers in trouble early on in the course, while the drop into the Abyss was sending skiers into the backseat. A number of skiers came popping out of that section in the air and off balance, drawing gasps from the crowd.
No one, not even the top 10, was really emerging from the 1.16-mile course unscathed.
Pinturault miscalculated a turn and ended up bashing his head against a gate. He sustained some injury to his shoulder, but still plans to race in Sunday’s giant slalom. However, that didn’t stop him from skiing into third place.
The young Frenchman, known more for his technical skiing, took his place with two speed veterans on the podium. Despite his impressive finish, Pinturault said he still doesn’t consider himself a speed skier.
“In previous years I trained a lot in super-G and downhill,” he said. “I don’t want to lose my slalom, so I want to stay focused on GS, slalom, combined and super-G, but not yet in downhill.”
Jansrud’s second place broke a three-race winning streak for the Norwegian. His solid run was marred only by a major mistake toward the bottom, at the Abyss. The section nearly sent him crashing, but he recovered and made up time on the bottom part of the course.
“I didn’t ski as well on top. I could have skied with more aggressiveness, but from the middle I think I skied very well,” he said. “I felt the mistake on the bottom, but I’m happy with second place.”
Reichelt makes a comeback
Reichelt is making a comeback after missing out on the last half of the 2013-2014 season, including the Olympics, recovering from surgery for a slipped disc in late January.
Last year at Birds of Prey, he was struggling with pain from the injury, but now he says he’s recovered and feeling healthy. Beaver Creek is among his favorite courses — and he said he’s excited that the course will be featured at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
“I’m not sure why,” he said. “Maybe it’s because it’s such a tough course, with so many bumps and many times you don’t see the next gate. You also have to ski with your brain here.”
He said that he was disappointed with his showing in Friday’s downhill and was happy for the chance for redemption — not to mention the opportunity to unseat Jansrud.
“Jansrud is really on another level, normally, and to beat him is really fun for me,” he said.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.