Surprise: Viletta wins first World Cup
BEAVER CREEK -Yogi Berra and ski racing seem to be a poor match. But at Saturday’s Birds of Prey men’s World Cup super-G, it wasn’t over until it was over.
Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta leapt out of the 30th spot to nab his first career win, not to mention make his debut on a World Cup podium.
“It’s amazing,” Viletta said. “I just pushed so much. It was great. I was in the start and listened to my coach and said, ‘Now I’m risking (it).'”
By coming from the bottom of the order of the top contenders, the 25-year-old knocked Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal into second and bumped Switzerland’s Beat Feuz into third.
Viletta continued the tradition of the unpredictability of the Birds of Prey super-G. Viletta is the fourth first-time winner of the race, joining Bjarne Solbakken (2003), Stefan Goergl (2004) and Hannes Reichelt (2005). And even though the last two winners – Svindal (2008) and Austria’s Georg Streitberger (2010) – weren’t first timers, Viletta’s win joins their ranks when it comes to the improbability of his victory.
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Svindal won in 2008 as a part of back-to-back wins here – he won the downhill a day before – after having a season-ending crash at Beaver Creek the year previous. Streitberger picked up only his second career triumph here last season.
And Viletta came from the 30th bib on a snowy day when conditions appeared to be deteriorating. Svindal went 11th and had gotten pretty comfortable in the hot seat.
“For a while, I thought so,” Svindal said of his chances of winning. “But then when guys like (Austria’s Hannes) Reichelt and Feuz when they started skiing that fast up top, I wasn’t sure any more because for a while there people were a couple tenths (of a second) faster than me. I could take that on the bottom. But when the people started skiing a half-a-second ahead, I was like, ‘This might be tough.'”
It got tough when Viletta blew out of the start, smashing his way to the fastest time from the start to The Pumphouse, a problem area for most of the field Saturday.
“On the steep, I can ski fast and I showed it,” said Viletta.
And now the world knows it. Viletta’s previous best was a fourth-place finish in Adelboden, Switzerland, in 2009. So, as one can imagine, Viletta’s eyes got pretty large as he came into the finish corral and saw a No. 1 by his name.
“I came down and I see the place, (and) I think it’s a very good place,” Viletta said. “I’m so happy.”
Not surprisingly, Viletta didn’t have a problem with visibility, even though it was snowing. He said the trees on the run helped block out the white stuff.
And Viletta continued a good run for the Swiss at Birds of Prey. They went 1-3-9 Saturday with Didier Cuche finishing ninth.
“Didier’s here for us and pushes us so much,” Viletta said. “He’s our hero and we can ski with him.”
Svindal is no stranger to the podium here or anywhere else. After winning the first super-G of the season last weekend up in Canada, he took the early discipline lead with a second-place Saturday.
Svindal defied the day’s trend, making mistakes up top, while gaining speed on the bottom.
“I didn’t ski well on top and the way Viletta skied that he absolutely deserved a victory,” Svindal said. “… I was leading for a long time, but I’m definitely happy. I had a pretty good run. I can’t be not happy about it just be cause someone else was faster.”
Meanwhile, Feuz is becoming a podium regular at Beaver Creek. After taking second in Friday’s downhill, he said that he was hoping for a top-30 finish in super-G. Third would definitely qualify.
“It’s unbelievable. So far, my best super-G result was a 13th place, so being on the podium today and yesterday couldn’t be any better,” Feuz said. “It seems to be a course that suits me very well. It’s very technical. Right now, I have very good technical capabilities. But it’s also a course where you need to glide.”
Viletta’s run from seemingly nowhere spoiled Canada’s Robbie Dixon’s hopes of landing the first podium of his career. He matched a career-high with his fourth-place finish. Austria’s Reichelt, who appeared headed toward his third super-G win here before making a key mistake in the lower half of the course, took fifth.
Bode Miller was the top American finisher in 21st, recovering from near disaster in Pete’s Arena on the top of the course.
Birds of Prey continues with giant slalom today with runs at 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.