Austria’s Marcel Hirscher wins GS
BEAVER CREEK – A guy like Ted Ligety isn’t going to stop pushing hard after a practically flawless first run in Sunday’s Birds of Prey giant slalom, but a few little bobbles in the second run were enough to put the defending Birds of Prey giant slalom champion in second place at the final finish.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher got the win Sunday. Hirscher finished third in giant slalom at last year’s Birds of Prey and said he has previously struggled at Beaver Creek to even qualify for the second run, so this win was especially sweet, he said.
“Today with my victory here – I’m pretty amused about the whole situation,” Hirscher said at a press conference after the race.
Ligety went into the second run Sunday in the lead by 0.21 seconds. His first run was clean, but Ligety knew he had to make some changes in order have a shot at winning.
“The snow is definitely super aggressive,” Ligety said after the first run. “I’m going to change my set-up a little bit for the second run just cause it was hard to really push on the ski without it bouncing around too much.”
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Ligety made the changes to his equipment and said after the second run that if he hadn’t done it, he “would be out of it.” Aggressive snow means it’s grabby, Ligety said, whereas on ice the skiers can predict what their skis are going to do.
The second run was exciting as racers kept knocking each other out of the top three one after another. But with the final racers left to go – the end of the second run’s start list is made up of the fastest finishers from the first run – the spectators and athletes knew each racer had the ability to bump down the racer before him.
Germany’s Fritz Dopfer, the 26th starter out of 30 for the second run, knocked Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, the 25th starter, out of the top position with a powerful run, but ultimately finished third. Austrian Benjamin Raich was up next and skied off-course, not finishing the race. Norwegian Kristian Leif Haugen came into 11th place at the end of his run, leaving just Hirscher and Ligety left to start.
‘Teddy will be back’
Once Hirscher put up an impressive combined time of 2:38.45, the pressure was on Ligety to make a strong, clean run.
“I was pushing hard and that snow definitely makes it easy to make mistakes,” Ligety said. “I definitely was kind of all over the place in places, but I skied well in sections and I knew exactly where I lost it when I had a little bobble on the bottom that was going to cost me some time.”
Ligety, who finished 22nd in Friday’s downhill and skied off-course in Saturday’s super-G, said he wasn’t necessarily disappointed with the second-place giant slalom finish.
“Being second place is obviously good,” he said. “But I was really wanting the win more than anything.”
The finish will motivate Ligety for Tuesday, when he will take on these World Cup racers at another Birds of Prey giant slalom race. He said he prefers the Birds of Prey course to the giant slalom course in Val D’Isere, where this week’s races were originally supposed to happen, so he’s looking forward to staying in Beaver Creek.
But after a race-filled week, beginning with Lake Louise and going into Beaver Creek, Ligety said he plans to sleep in on Monday.
For Dopfer, taking third place Sunday was almost surreal. He had finished 13th in October at Soelden, Austria, the first World Cup race of the year, and said he was not expecting a podium finish in Beaver Creek.
“It was a big surprise for me (to be on the podium),” Dopfer said. “It’s just amazing to be on the podium. To stand beside such great athletes, it’s just amazing, I can’t believe it.”
He went into the weekend confident, though, after arriving in Colorado Nov. 18 and training in Vail and Aspen. He said he has been looking forward to racing in Beaver Creek.
Hirscher had been looking forward to it, too. He had a foot injury last season and said his goal was just to ski at the level he had been skiing at before the injury. With Sunday’s win, he feels he has reached that goal, he said.
With just one day of rest between the two Birds of Prey giant slalom races, though, nothing is a sure thing for Tuesday’s race. Hirscher feels he has enough power for his next races, but he knows many of the other skiers do, too.
“We will see. I think Teddy will be also very strong, as we saw today – it was a pretty close finish between us,” Hirscher said. “…In Austria, Ted is unbreakable, so it’s pretty big success for me to beat him today, but we’ll see – I think Teddy will be back on Tuesday.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.