Streitberger slows his way to super-G win
BEAVER CREEK – Austria’s Georg Streitberger put on the brakes so he could be the fastest at Saturday’s Birds of Prey World Cup super-G.
Streitberger saw a sharp right turn in pre-race inspection before Screech Owl Jump, midway through the course, and planned accordingly. Taking it just a bit slower there, where a lot of the field had trouble, allowed the 29-year-old capture his second World Cup win Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 17.18 seconds.
“It’s a difficult course, Streitberger said. “You have to ski well. Sometimes, you have to ski with the brain and put on the brakes. That’s the reason because it’s so difficult.”
That’s easier said than done, but it worked certainly for the Austrian, as well as France’s Adrien Theaux (1:17.18), who finished second for his first World Cup podium, and Switzerland’s Didier Cuche (1:17:31), who finished with bronze.
“I feel good. It’s a perfect day for me,” Streitberger said. “It’s my second victory, a dream come true.”
Streitberger’s only previous win came on March 2, 2008, in a super-G in Kvitfjell, Norway. His last podium was a third, also in super-G, in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Streitberger had two 14th-place finishes in the last weekend’s speed races up in Lake Louise, Alberta.
The right turn before Screech Owl was the defining one Saturday. It was a grave yard for American hopes as Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht both went out there. Marco Sullivan’s day ended on Russi’s Ride, just after that jump, and Ted Ligety was also a DNF.
Steve Nyman bib-hopped from No. 57 to 25 to be the top American Saturday.
The Americans weren’t the only ones in trouble on that spot. Nineteen racers didn’t finish the course.
“I (made) more turns before this right one,” Streitberger said. “So I had a lot of (space) to turn right. That’s what was the difference. It’s very important because the next gates are flat and you have to take the speed.”
A lot of racers tried to take that hard right with what would be too much speed because they wanted to carry their pace into those flats of which Streitberger spoke. Ironically, Cuche made a fortuitous mistake at Pumphouse, located right by the giant slalom start and right before the critical right turn, which ended up slowing him down so he was able to make the decisive gate.
“If I wouldn’t have made that mistake, I would have gone off where everyone else was going out, Screech Owl,” Cuche said. “I lost lots of speed. It maybe cost me the victory, but who knows if I would be in the finish?”
One can call it luck or chalk it up to the fact that he’s raced for 12 years at Birds of Prey. While it was probably a little bit of both, Cuche picked up his sixth podium in Beaver Creek. The veteran is also off to a swift start to the season with three top 10s in the speed events so far.
“I think it’s a high speed coming from Pumphouse and there was a big roll,” Cuche said. “You had to be high and the timing of the turn, you had to begin at the right moment. I was a little bit too early. That’s why I was off, and I almost didn’t make the gate. That’s the super-G. You have just the inspection and then you have to push out. Hopefully, you get the right line.”
Because the race order is determined by previous World Cup super-G points – and the most-accomplished racers start in the second half of the top 30 – Streitberger was the sixth racer of the day while Theaux was No. 4.
This proved to be an advantage.
“I had a good number, Streitberger said. “It was very good for this race. If you came later, it was getting bumpy. I made a god run. Some gates, you have to put a little on the brakes because it was very fast. I did it well. I had one little mistake at the last jump, but it doesn’t matter. I’m very happy with this.”
Younger racers doing well at the Birds of Prey super-G is nothing new. From 2003-05, Norway’s Bjarne Solbakken, Austria’s Stephan Goergl (bib No. 36 to 10th Saturday) and Austria’s Hannes Reichelt (13th Saturday) got their first World Cup wins in this race.
While Streitberger won his second race, Theaux earned his first trip to a World Cup podium. His previous best finishes were a pair of sixth places in Are, Sweden, at the 2009 World Cup Finals downhill and at last year’s Lake Louise super-G.
“I don’t know. It’s crazy for me today,” Theaux said in the finish coral. “It’s a great, great day. It’s my first podium. I’m very happy. I had a good feeling at inspection this morning, and the days before (in training). … After my run, I thought it was OK, but I didn’t think it was good enough to be on the podium, but now it’s done.”
Even as he said that though, Theaux kept looking back at the scoreboard as some of the higher-bib numbers came down just to make sure. There were probably no big celebrations Saturday night.
“I have GS tomorrow,” Theaux said. “Some glasses (of wine) tonight, but not too late.”
Italy’s Christof Innerhofer finished fourth. Austria’s Mario Scheiber was fifth and that puts him atop the overall standings for the moment with 175 points. Italy’s Peter Fill was sixth, followed by Austria’s Michael Walchhofer, who sits second in the overall (149). Canada’s Robbie Dixon was eighth and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal took ninth.
Birds of Prey concludes today with the giant slalom. The first run is at 9:45 a.m. with the top-30 finishers qualifying for a second run at 12:45 p.m.
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