Cuche wins Chamonix downhill
CHAMONIX, France – Switzerland’s Didier Cuche won his second straight World Cup downhill Saturday, positioning himself as a strong favorite in Alpine skiing’s showcase event at next month’s world championships.
A week after taming the technically demanding Streif course in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Cuche showed his versatility in Chamonix by capturing his ninth career World Cup downhill on a course that favors gliding ability.
It was Cuche’s first win in this French Alps resort and his second World Cup victory of the season.
“The most important thing to win a World Cup downhill is to be consistent from top to bottom,” Cuche said. “Today I achieved a perfect run.”
In perfect race conditions, Cuche clocked 1 minute, 58.91 seconds down the 2.09-mile Verte course, with Dominik Paris of Italy 0.67 back in second.
Travis Ganong overcame a stomach bug to finish 35th for a depleted U.S. squad. Teammates Steven Nyman and Wiley Maple also were sick, while Bode Miller and Ted Ligety skipped the races this weekend.
Miller was in the U.S. resting ahead of the world championships that begin Feb. 8 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, while Ligety was training for the giant slalom and super G races in Hinterstoder, Austria, next week. He leads the giant slalom standings.
Cuche trailed the leading time by 0.09 seconds at the first intermediate, but found the perfect line in the Rocher Blanc turn, a big right curve where many skiers lost time.
“I won four-tenths of a second in this sector, and it would have been impossible to make that difference anywhere else,” Cuche said.
The 36-year-old Swiss became the oldest man to win a World Cup race last week by claiming the Kitzbuehel downhill.
Cuche’s only podium in Chamonix was in 2008, when he finished second behind American Marco Sullivan.
“I have a very particular relationship with Chamonix,” Cuche said. “I was there in 1997, recovering from a crash where I broke my fibula and my shinbone. We went to the top of the slope with my brother and went down walking through the forest, streams and rocks. It took us hours to do this and I can tell you it was much easier today.”
Cuche extended his lead in the downhill standings to 379 points, 65 ahead of Michael Walchhofer of Austria, who moved to second after finishing fifth in the race.
Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland is third with 285.
The race was interrupted for about 30 minutes after Canadian skier Manuel Osborne-Paradis crashed heavily, breaking his left fibula and tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in that knee.
He was taken to a Geneva hospital and the Canadian team later said he is out for the rest of the season.
Osborne-Paradis lost his balance when he caught a ski and went flying into the safety netting.
The Canadian is the third men’s World Cup skier to be injured in a crash this month. Mario Scheiber broke his right shoulder blade and fractured his sinuses during training this week, while Hans Grugger of Austria needed emergency brain surgery after crashing in Kitzbuehel last week and is still hospitalized.
Another Austrian, Georg Streitberger, also fell Saturday but didn’t appear seriously injured.
The 21-year-old Paris was the first starter and had a nearly flawless run to place second, his first top-10 finish in a World Cup race.
“Apparently only Didier could beat me today,” Paris said. “I’m very proud of what I achieved today. But I’m still learning from guys like Didier. I have to be patient and be careful not to rush things.”
Austrian Klaus Kroell was third, 0.88 seconds adrift.
“I think Didier was unbeatable. Like in Kitzbuehel, he was in a league of his own,” Kroell said.
Saturday’s race was the last downhill before the world championships in Germany.
“Didier will be the strong favorite in downhill,” Kroell said. “He has been in an impressive form recently and we all will be outsiders.”
Overall World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished 2.25 seconds back in 28th place.
“I lost time constantly,” Kostelic said. “I’m a bit surprised with my time because I didn’t make any big mistake. Maybe it was a problem with my skis.”
Kostelic, who leads Cuche by 405 points in the standings, will have a chance to make up for his disappointing performance in Sunday’s super-combined.