World Cup Alpine racing: Sullivan places 25th in World Championship downhill
VAL d’ISERE, France ” After a fearless charge down the Bellvarde downhill course Saturday, Canadian John Kucera skied just .04 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Didier Cuche to win his first World Championship title. The Swiss went 2-3 with Carlo Janka grabbing third, just .17 seconds behind.
Bode Miller was the top American in eighth place, and Truckee’s Marco Sullivan finished 25th.
While Sullivan was disappointed in his performance, he gave credit to Kucera, whose technical prowess won the race.
“It’s a serious test of your technical skiing ability,” Sullivan said. “The guy who won today is an amazing technical skier. For me, personally, obviously I’m going to have to have a flawless run and I didn’t have the strength today.”
Sullivan said fog on the course threw him off from the get-go and started a chain reaction of errors from that point on.
“When I came into the fog it kind of surprised me and that’s when I made my first mistake and from that point on I was kind of playing catch up,” he said. “I was hammering trying to make up that time and it just got worse and worse and by the bottom I was pretty much spent from all the recoveries and that was it.”
The 24-year-old Kucera was one of the few racers to attack through the technical, steep and icy turns without a major mistake. Though ragged in some sections, Kucera hung on to his line and remained un-feathered by small bobbles. As he crossed the line in the lead, wearing bib No. 2, Kucera had the pleasure of watching the rest of the field try to beat his time and fail.
Starting early in the race held a slight advantage as fog rolled in on the top section of the course, alarming racers and causing them to question their game plans.
The fog was especially thick for defending overall champion Miller. At the first interval, Miller was already a second behind Kucera and from the halfway point down it was apparent Miller would not be able to pull it back.
While Miller hit the worst fog of the day, he didn’t ask for a rerun. “I wouldn’t want to run again,” he said. “It’s just too demanding.”
Just after Miller there was a long course-hold before defending downhill world champion Aksel Svindal kicked out of the starting gate.
Sullivan said it was disappointing that the course was not put on hold for Miller, and Sullivan questioned why organizers didn’t hold.
“It’s hard to say what their thinking is, but it’s a bummer,” he said.
Many of the racers had complained that the Bellevarde piste was too demanding and that while the skiing may be exciting to watch, it is by all accounts not fun to ski.
Erik Fisher and Andrew Weibrecht both fell victim to the course, with Weibrecht skiing through a panel and Fisher skiing out halfway down.
“The GS skiers will do well here because you’ve got to get up over the front of the ski and make some really tight turns that your downhill skis won’t necessarily turn that sharp,” Fisher said.
“The bottom two thirds is tough. There’s no flow to it. You have to come in to each turn like it’s its own section and just get ready for it. It was bumpy in the back. Definitely the place to be was early,” he added.
The athletes said on a demanding track like the Bellevarde there is no room for error. In many downhills, racers have the ability to execute different lines to find speed, but at Val d’Isere there are simply places one has to be. The alternative, as many racers discovered, was a meeting with layers of red safety netting that lined the hill. Dider Defago, Jan Hudec and Christoph Gruber were among those who met the fence.
1. John Kucera, Canada, 2:07.01
2. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 2:07.05
3. Carlo Janka, Switzerland, 2:07.18
4. Marco Buechel, Liechtenstein, 2:07.53
5. Adrien Theaux, France, 2:07.95
8. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 2:08.38
25. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 2:12.16
DNF – Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY), Erik Fisher (Middleton, ID)
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