Kyle Negomir thrilled and inspired to take on his first Lauberhorn downhill
Former SSCV Alpine skier placed 39th in Friday's super-G in Wengen, Switzerland
It’s a course, place and magical setting unlike any other on the World Cup tour.
Kyle Negomir said ski racing on the venerable Lauberhorn course in Wengen, Switzerland, is like being in a “fairy tale” after completing his first career World Cup race here on Friday. The 24-year-old Colorado racer finished 39th in a super-G, a respectable result coming out of the 45th position and dealing with deteriorating course conditions.
“It was wet, windy and bumpy out there, so happy to be down in one piece,” Negomir said in the finish area, after his run of 1:52.44.
It began as a surprisingly beautiful day in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland that defied the forecast, although the light faded and track became rutted as more and more of the 59 starters took their trips down the Swiss mountain.
“It is the prettiest place I’ve ever been – it kind of feels like it’s plucked out of a fairy tale. No cars up here and it’s just this little idyllic village on top the mountains,” said the Colorado ski racer, making his 18th career World Cup start.
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“It’s definitely cool to be here and feel the history behind it,” he said about the 93rd edition of the classic races.
While Negomir was unable to improve upon his 24th and 23rd place super-G finishes, attained in Lake Louise and Bormio earlier this season, he is excited to build upon the valuable course experience gained and attack the grueling 2.65-mile Lauberhorn downhill on Saturday.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen — it’s so narrow and winding the whole way down. All the modern downhills build in turns, here you don’t really have to turn unless you absolutely have to and that’s why you can cover six kilometers in two-and-a-half minutes,” Negomir said. “It’s tough getting used to the length, focusing for that long and keeping your legs under you also.”
In the shadow of the Eiger, the plunge down the Lauberhorn is as scintillating as any. From navigating a tight rocky passage off the Hundschopt Jump to the intriguing jump and corner turn combination known as Minschkante, and then the tight and narrow Kernen S-Curve where the race can be won or lost, the Lauberhorn poses a myriad of challenges. Racers also pass through a narrow tunnel, as trains occasionally pass directly above.
Negomir said that he received some quick advice from U.S. Ski Team veteran Steve Nyman, who has been sidelined with injuries, last night.
“There are a lot of tips and tricks to keep speed, and to be able to do those tricky sections like the S-Curve every time, it’s really tough to repeat that,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy that basically an entire two-and-a-half minute course hinges on one six-second section of two GS turns. You come in and see the net in front of you, don’t see anything else and you just have to trust yourself coming in blind and try to turn as fast as you can.”
The top U.S. result on Friday was a sixth-place finish by Beijing 2022 Olympic super-G silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle. Veteran Travis Ganong was 17th, while Eric Arvidsson executed a strong run from the 56th start position to finish 35th.
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won Friday’s race with a time of 1:47.84. He spoiled Switzerland’s party, defeating Stefan Rogentin by 0.27 seconds as well as rival Marco Odermatt, Swiss racers who respectively finished second and third.
“It’s fun when Swiss guys are on top of the podium in Wengen, but today I was a little bit of a party crasher,” Kilde said after his fifth victory of the season. The Norwegian racer’s five wins this season move him within three of his girlfriend Mikaela Shiffrin, who has amassed a staggering total of eight thus far.
The U.S. Ski Team has fared well in Wengen over the years, although it has been awhile. Bode Miller was victorious twice on the Lauberhorn downhill in 2007 and 2008, while his teammate Daron Rahlves took top honors in 2006. Californian Kyle Rasmussen was a surprise winner in 1995.
Wengen was also the setting for numerous scenes, on-and-off the mountain, in the classic 1969 film “Downhill Racer.” The sport drama starred Robert Redford as a brash, up-and-coming American racer from Idaho Springs, Colorado, with Olympic gold medal aspirations. Spoiler alert: Redford’s character Dave Chappellet charges to a gold medal in the closing scene.
Negomir says that he recently watched the flick, urged on by his elder teammates during pre-season training camp at Copper Mountain.
“A couple of the guys of the team who are old school, skiing aficionados went on a tirade and said if you haven’t seen “Downhill Racer” then you’re not a real ski racer,” Negomir laughed.
“So, I watched “Downhill Racer.” Great movie. I had friends who lived in Idaho Springs, so it’s kind of funny seeing that story and him coming up as a racer,” Negomir continued.
Perhaps there are even some slight similarities between Redford’s iconoclast character and the 24-year-old Negomir, who will battle the Lauberhorn downhill for the first time on Saturday.
Asked what it might take to succeed in the epic race, Negomir succinctly responds: “I think a lower bib would help.”
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