Didier Cuche is back on top in Vail
VAIL — These days, as long as he’s on top of the podium, Didier Cuche doesn’t much care about discipline or venue in a ski race.
“It always feels good to win,” he said.
At Wednesday’s Korbel Legends Race, the Swiss star added another win to his impressive list, which includes five podium-topping performances on the legendary Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria, the most revered track on the World Cup circuit, as well as a World Championships super-G win. On Wednesday, however, from the familiar confines of the Vail Valley, Cuche reflected on the one that got away.
“Birds of Prey, that’s the only one that I’m a little bit sad not to have won this race,” he said of North America’s downhill. “I won the super-G but not the downhill.”
LEGEND OF HONOR
To earn his win on Wednesday, Cuche had to battle it out head to head with Norwegian Lasse Kjus at Golden Peak Race Arena in Vail. The race, an homage to the legends of the sport, took place in a head-to-head format similar to the Nations Team Event competition, which took place Tuesday but on a shorter course. Complimenting the Legends race is a Legend of Honor awards ceremony, in which Kjus was to be honored a few hours later along with his teammate Kjetil Andre Aamodt as the 2015 recipients of the annual award. They were also featured on the official Vail Valley Foundation pin for Wednesday.
“We all know the success Lasse has had, so it feels good, feels sweet to be in front of Lasse today,” Cuche said. “But it was more a matter of fun, coming together and giving a little show for the few hundred people who were here.”
Rounding out the podium was Marc Girardelli, of Luxembourg. On the women’s side, Austria’s Alexandra Meissnitzer was in first; Kristina Koznick, of the U.S., was in second; and Michaela Dorfmeister, also of Austria, was in third.
The Golden Peak venue didn’t see nearly the crowds for Wednesday’s Legends race as it did for Tuesday’s Nations Team Event, but those in attendance were in for quite a show, with racers battling it out, finishing on one ski and then flipping that ski into the air after crossing the line.
“This will be a great memory to have in me. I prefer not to compete too much any more. I’m kind of done with it, and to be a little bit forced to get back here into the circus, there’s only one way to do it — I must try to do my best,” Kjus said Wednesday. “Today it’s only fun; it’s not serious at all but the nerves are coming. … I was not expecting to perform as good as I did today, so I’m surprised, really happy.”
Kjus said he was well equipped Wednesday for the Golden Peak course, which Austrian downhill legend Franz Klammer proclaimed, laughingly, to have “too many turns.”
“I’m in Bode’s shoes and skis, so I am doing well,” Kjus said.
“Bode Miller?” Kjus was asked to clarify.
“Yes, of course Bode Miller,” he said with laugh and a gesture toward his Head skis. “Or at least that’s what they told me.”
Leith raced through foggy conditions to a photo finish for second place, and ended up third.