With two weeks to go, a look at the women’s races
So anything big happen over the weekend on the women’s World Cup tour?
Lindsey Vonn looks like she has her A-game going as we are less than two weeks from the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Yep, 13 days from now is the women’s super-G, the first race of the Championships.
Here’s a look at the World Cup women’s races as we get closer to Beaver Creek-apalooza 2015.
Vonn has returned to the top spot in the DH, with a 155-point lead over Slovenia’s Tina Maze. Vonn is 3-for-5 in downhills in her comeback season with Maze winning in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Italy’s Elena Fanchini taking the top step last weekend in the first downhill on her home snow in Cortina.
We’ve got one more set of speed races, downhill on Saturday and super-G on Sunday, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, before everyone descends on Beaver Creek.
While all eyes will certainly be on Vonn come the Worlds downhill — a reminder — there are a lot of other good racers out there.
Viktoria Rebensburg, of Germany, is third in the discipline points, with Austria’s Anna Fenninger in fifth. Fenninger skied well at Raptor’s test event back in November 2013, as did Switzerland’s Lara Gut, who won the downhill and super-G. Gut is 13th in the downhill points, but there’s a lot to be said for having a comfort level with a course.
The defending world champion is France’s Marion Rolland, which brings in another variable with regard to reading the tea leaves. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, someone comes from nowhere and wins. That’s Rolland’s one and only victory of her career.
While everyone is buzzing about Vonn’s win in super-G on Monday, she is not the leader in the points. Fenninger hasn’t won an event in the discipline, but she leads with 192 points. Gut, who won in Lake Louise, is second (190), followed by Vonn (180). The top five, which serves as a who’s who of women’s speed, is rounded out by Maze, who won the event at 2013 Worlds, and Elizabeth Goergl.
Sunday’s super-G in St. Moritz should shake this up a little more. A darkhorse here, of course, is Julia Mancuso, currently seventh in the points. Mancuso is always good for punching in at Worlds.
This is a puzzler since there hasn’t been a combined event yet for the women. Worlds will be the first super-combi of the season. Only two women on tour have points in both the downhill and slalom — Maze and Nicole Hosp, of Austria. Since Maze is second in the downhill and third in the slalom, she’s the favorite. (Hosp is 20th in the downhill and seventh in slalom, including a win at Aspen.)
Canada’s Marie-Michelle Gagnon won the only combined of the 2013-14 World Cup season. Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, now retired, won the Olympic super-combi, followed by Hosp and Mancuso, last winter.
And now we enter the world of competition speculation. Mancuso will certainly be one of the four Americans in the race here. Does Mikaela Shiffrin give this a shot? Slalomers usually have the advantage in the combined. Does the U.S. Ski Team/Team Shiffrin tell Mikaela, “Give the downhill a go, come down in one piece and then make up the time in slalom”?
How about Vonn? If she’s done well in the speed events, does she give it a shot? Vonn in the super-combi is probably more likely because of its place in the Worlds calendar. The speed events are done by the time we get to the super-combi, whereas Shiffrin will likely be gearing up for giant slalom and slalom.
Before everyone hops on the Shiffrin bandwagon, just like with Vonn-mania, there are other racers out there. Austrian’s Eva-Maria Brem (270) and Fenninger (242) top the GS points ahead of Shiffrin (226).
We’ve had five winners in four races in GS this season since Fenninger and Shiffrin tied in the season-opener in Soelden, Austria — Brem, Maze and Switzerland’s Sarah Hector are the others.
A few other names to consider here — Austria’s Kathrin Zettel and Norway’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby. The latter won the GS on Raptor in 2013.
Remember the name — Frida Hansdotter of Sweden. She does lead the slalom coming into Worlds. Hansdotter has bored the world to death, in a good way, with her consistent finishes this year on the circuit — second, second, third, fourth, fourth, first.
The omnipresent Maze is third in the slalom, and, by the by, the overall leader, since she gets mentioned so many times.
Yes, Shiffrin is the defending World Cup and world champ in slalom, but it’s worth a mention that the field isn’t handing the gold on a silver (would it be silver?) platter to the 19-year-old American.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.