Aksel Svindal masters fresh snow, takes downhill win in Italy
Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal mastered the fresh snow conditions on the Stelvio course Sunday to win a downhill for his fourth victory of the Olympic season.
The Norwegian clocked 1 minute, 54.08 seconds to finish 0.39 seconds ahead of Hannes Reichelt of Austria.
Erik Guay of Canada placed third, 0.51 back, for a strong follow-up to his downhill victory in Val Gardena a week ago.
Svindal trailed Guay at every checkpoint but then gained 0.65 seconds over the last few gates, where Guay made a slight but costly error, lifting up his left ski to regain his balance after cutting off a turn too sharply.
The top American finisher was Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley, Calif., in 10th, while Bode Miller struggled with the conditions and finished 35th.
The start of the race was delayed for 40 minutes due to fog and low visibility, and overnight snow provided a much softer surface than during the two training sessions Friday and Saturday.
Svindal extended his overall lead ahead of two-time defending champion Marcel Hirscher to 195 points. The Norwegian also leads the downhill standings and is shaping up as the top favorite for the speed events at the Sochi Olympics, which start in 40 days.
Svindal won a medal of each color at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Still, he had never won in Bormio and missed out on victory last season by 0.01 — the smallest margin possible — when Reichelt and Dominik Paris of Italy shared the victory.
Paris sat out this race as he recovers from a fall in Val Gardena.
It was Svindal’s 25th career World Cup win, moving him into sole possession of 11th place on the all-time list. One more victory and he’ll pull even with Austrian great Franz Klammer for 10th place on the list, which is led by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark with 86 wins.
Just as impressive, Svindal became the first skier from outside Austria or Switzerland to win 20 World Cup speed races — joining a select group that includes Hermann Maier (39 speed wins), Klammer (25 — all downhill), Stephan Eberharter (24), Peter Mueller (21) and Pirmin Zurbriggen (21).
Besides his win last year, Reichelt also won a super-G on the Stelvio in 2008.
With his 21st podium, Guay broke the Canadian record held by Steve Podborski, a member of the Crazy Canucks team in the 1970s and 80s.
Bormio will also host the next men’s race on Jan. 6, a Monday night slalom that was moved from Zagreb due to a lack of snow in Croatia.
A New Year’s Day race in Munich was canceled due to lack of snow.