Rasmussen takes Ford Downhill title again
OLYMPIC VALLEY – American Kyle Rasmussen took the Ford Downhill Series overall individual title for the second year in a row at Squaw Valley USA Saturday by besting 3-time Olympian Daniel Mahrer of Team Switzerland.
Rasmussen and Mahrer came into the fifth and final race of the series each with 190 points. Mahrer, who beat Rasmussen by nearly a second on the same course last year, has a history of dominating the Squaw Valley course. This year would be different.
Mahrer made a mistake on his first run trying to navigate the steep upper portion of the course and never recovered the lost time.
“I made two mistakes in my first run and just got a little too far outside,” Mahrer said.
After two runs Mahrer finished the day in second place, with a combined time just .21 seconds behind Rasmussen. Rasmussen, known for taking aggressive lines, did not disappoint Saturday. While other racers chose smoother, rounder lines befitting a softer course, Rasmussen picked a line two to three feet inside any other racer’s tracks.
“Kyle goes really hard, straight into it,” course forerunner and former Australian downhiller Al Coleman said.
Also on Rasmussen’s side was the weather. While event planners thanked a benevolent Mother Nature for good weather, Team U.S.A. prayed the weather wouldn’t be too good. They were aptly awarded.
Overcast conditions kept the sun at bay, keeping the snow cold and more in tune with Team U.S.A.’s ski technician Curtis Bacca’s choice of wax. The high altitude and hot sun characteristic of Tahoe makes it one of the tougher areas to wax for. Last year Rasmussen paid the price for poorly chosen wax, according to Bacca, but once again the bones told a different story this year.
“The fact that the sun didn’t come down, I knew then that we were going to be OK,” Bacca said.
Rasmussen, two-time World Cup Downhill champion, became the first person to win back-to-back overall titles in the seven-year history of the series. His two-year run atop the series has been somewhat unexpected. He only joined Team U.S.A. last year when he filled in for an injured A.J. Kitt.
“I’m just happy I was able to put in two solid runs,” Rasmussen said. “I feel good about the way things turned out.”
And appropriately so. Rasmussen took home $44,000 for his overall series victory.
Team U.S.A. did not fare as well in the team competition. They finished third Saturday, and second place overall behind a dominant Swiss team.
1994 downhill gold medalist, Tommy Moe completed the American team. Moe, coming off knee surgery last year, finished seventh Saturday and seventh overall in the individual rankings.
For the team title Mahrer will split $96,000 and two new Ford Explorers with his teammate, four time World Cup winner William Besse. Besse and Mahrer won all five team races of the year. Moe and Rasmussen will settle for $76,000 and whatever wheels they’ve been driving.
Team Italy, comprised of Alberto Senigagliesi and Pietro Vitalini took first in the team competition at Saturday’s race. It was the first race of the season the pair have won, but was good enough for a third place finish overall.
Frenchman Jean-Luc Cretier, the 1998 Olympic gold medalist in downhill, finished third Saturday and third overall. Rounding out the team rankings was Team France in fourth and Team Canada in last place.
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