On loaners, Mahre and Nowen win at Vail | VailDaily.com

On loaners, Mahre and Nowen win at Vail

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT american ski classic GS1 KA 03-26-08

VAIL, Colorado ” Their luggage may not have arrived for Wednesday’s race, but Phil Mahre and Ylva Nowen didn’t mind: They skied to gold on borrowed goods.

Nowen, the 1998 World Cup slalom champ, edged Norway’s Toril Forland to take the women’s Ski Classic giant slalom at Vail’s Golden Peak.

“I borrowed everything on my body,” Nowen said.

Forland didn’t seem to think an unfamiliar pair of boots slowed Nowen.

“She’s very talented,” Forland said. “She’s not Ylva Nowen for nothing.”

Mahre, a three-time World Cup overall champ, looked as sharp as ever, carving through the gates with the precision and vigor of a 20-year old.

“I don’t know if he’s as old as he says. Maybe he’s 10 or 20 years younger,” said Hannes Trinkl, who came in second behind Mahre. “He’s so fast in his movements. It’s great to watch him.”

With a new pair of Head skis under his feet, Mahre finally picked up the elusive Ski Classic win.

“I’ve been a runner-up a few times,” he said. “Last year was close. I came up second against (Kjetil Andre) Aamodt.”

In the head-to-head event, skiers take two runs, with the best combined time moving on to the next round. Racers are handicapped based on their age. Mahre beat Hias Leitner in the semifinals, while the Austrian Trinkl beat fellow countryman Patrick Ortlieb.

For many of the racers, Wednesday was the first time in the gates since last year’s competition.

“I’m quite tired,” Nowen said. “I’m vibrating a bit in my whole body, but of course, it’s also because you get fired up. Everything is in your head. You’re used to racing, and when you are in the start, it just comes.”

Forland hasn’t raced since her pair of fourth-place finishes at last year’s Ski Classic but was prepared for Wednesday’s competition.

“I freeski a fair amount and coach the race team at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire,” she said. “You learn by coaching. You are so focused on technique and everything.”

One of Forland’s former students, her son Henrik Lampert, was on hand to watch.

“It’s pretty fun,” said Lampert, a professional freeskiier who spent this winter in Summit County. “It’s nice that she gets to come here and be in the spotlight a little bit instead of coaching. I’m impressed by all these guys who are getting older and older and they still rip. It’s pretty fun to watch.”

Lampert said that his mom doesn’t enjoy watching him compete as much.

“She gets too nervous,” he said.

For today’s downhill, Lampert may do the worrying, though.

“She gets up to those high speeds and I’m afraid she may catch and edge and head into the fence. Hopefully, she’ll stay on her feet,” he said.

Last winter, Mahre came out of retirement with hopes of qualifying for the U.S. Alpine Championships. This season, Mahre continued his campaign but fell short of qualifying for nationals.

“That was in the plan for this year, but I had a sophomore jinx,” he said. “I went backwards instead of forwards. But hopefully I’ll get out there and have a good season next year.”

Mahre has been hitting the gates just as much as any junior skier the past month.

“It’s getting better,” he said. “I struggle with consistency because of a lack of training time, but I actually had four races two weeks ago and went to Steamboat for the NASTAR finals and had a lot of gates there, and I went home and got another race in before I came here. I’ve had a lot of gates in the past two or three weeks, which is a plus for me.”

And in the past few days, Mahre’s skis have got in plenty of miles, albeit without him on them.

“They are somewhere in the country,” he said. “We don’t know where. They went to Houston, to Dallas, back to Denver and then to Kansas City, I guess.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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