BORMIO, Italy - Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley delivered a career-best seventh-place World Cup finish on a grueling Stelvio downhill in Bormio, Italy, on Saturday.
The second-longest downhill on the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup tour, the Stelvio is known for its leg-punishing ice and bumps while racers hit speeds of 75 mph. The punishing downhill bucked 11 of the 55 starters off course, including American Tommy Biesemeyer, who skied away from a scary crash.
"You have to be gutsy on this course. It's such a challenging hill. It never lets up," Ganong said after the race. "There are so many key turns, terrain and jumps that you have to nail. It's bumpy and dark and it's inevitable that you'll have a mistake, but whoever can push through that will be fast."
It was the tightest race in recent history with the top four separated by a mere .02 seconds. Austrian Hannes Reichelt and Italian Dominik Paris tied for the win, .01 in front of World Cup downhill and overall leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
Ganong - who posted a previous career-best finish just two weeks prior, when he was 10th in the Saslong Classic downhill in Val Gardena, Italy - was .49 seconds from the win after skiing from bib 25. Teammates Steven Nyman and Andrew Weibrecht finished 26th and 33rd, respectively.
"Finally I'm figuring out how to mentally attack these downhills," Ganong said. "Before I was always kind of nervous because it was my first or second time skiing these courses. But this is my third year in Bormio and I feel like I can just relax a little bit and have fun.
"I love to ski and in the last few years I had to tone back how I ski because you have to really learn these downhills before you can attack. Now I feel that I know them, I can attack and I can be up there with the best guys."
In Semmering, Austria, on Friday, American Mikaela Shiffrin battled a rugged giant slalom course to finish a career-best eighth and leap into 10th in the overall World Cup standings.
Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley finished 25th as wind and fog made the already bumpy course exponentially more challenging.
"It was actually pretty good considering how warm it is," Mancuso said. "There's one tricky turn up there that's catching most people. It's a little bumpy and there's a dish at the gate, but it wasn't too bad. There was just a bump and you couldn't see the holes really, but that's what happens."
Austrian Anna Fenninger posted the wire-to-wire win with a massive 1.1-second margin over Slovenian overall leader Tina Maze. Lindsey Vonn did not start and is still regaining strength following a stomach illness in late November.