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Not for nothing is the legendary Hahnenkamm race referred to as the Superbowl of World Cup racing among American fans. The storied event, held annually in Kitzbühel, Austria as a stop on the men’s World Cup Tour, always delivers one of the best shows in ski racing thanks to its puckering terrain that goads the best racers in the world into risking everything in the hopes of landing in the Hahnenkamm history books. This year’s races in Kitzbühel, which gave downhillers the opportunity to tackle the fearsome Streif twice in one weekend while the best technical skiers duked it out in Saturday’s slalom, proved no different, and history was once again written.
Kitzbühel Downhill, Jan. 21 and Jan. 23
Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Switzerland’s Beat Feuz stole the show in Friday’s and Sunday’s downhill races with their fearless runs that earned them the victory. It was the first win on the Streif for Aamodt Kilde, and quite remarkable given that this is a comeback season for Kilde, who underwent knee surgery after a crash last season. Based on his winning record this season, the 29-year-old racer seems to have come back stronger than ever. The Streif, which is widely considered the gnarliest downhill course in the world, features the kinds of compressions, massive jumps, and G-force-cranking turns that are unkind to even the fittest of racers, making Kilde’s winning performance all the more impressive.
Watch: The Streif – The World’s Most Dangerous Downhill Course
And while Kilde was celebrated as the winner of the day, the true winner in the eyes of many fans was France’s Johan Clarey. At 41-years-old, Clarey is the oldest active racer on the World Cup circuit. He made history last season by becoming the oldest man to podium in a World Cup race when he finished second in the 2021 Kitzbühel downhill. On Friday, he one-upped himself by repeating that record after finishing .42 seconds behind Kilde to once again land in second. Clarey’s teammate Blaise Giezendanner rounded out the podium in third.
Clarey, who became the first man to break 100mph in a downhill race in 2013, now has eight World Cup downhill podiums to his name but has yet to claim a victory in the discipline. While the top spot still eludes him, Clarey’s younger teammates and fellow competitors went wild after he crossed the finish line in Friday’s downhill.
Sunday’s downhill went to Feuz, who won both Kitzbühel downhills in 2021 and now joins the ranks of an elite group of eight men who have claimed three or more victories on this challenging track.
Aamodt Kilde and Feuz are now neck and neck in the downhill standings, with Kilde leading the board narrowly with 445 points to Feuz’s 437. Austria’s Matthias Mayer sits in third with 402 points, just one point ahead of Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, who finished second behind Feuz in Sunday’s downhill. Austria’s Daniel Hemetsberger narrowly edged out Mayer for third place in Sunday’s race.
While it’s been almost two decades since an American has landed on the Hahnenkamm podium—Daron Rahlves was the first and only U.S. athlete to win the race in 2003—the American men posted solid results in both downhills this weekend.
Travis Ganong led the U.S. contingency with a seventh-place finish on Friday, followed by 11th place in Sunday’s race. Bryce Bennett followed suit with 11th and 12th place finishes, respectively. Steven Nyman and Jared Goldberg also finished within the points in both races.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who made his comeback to the Streif one year after a horrific crash on the same course left him with a minor broken neck, finished outside the top-30 in Friday’s event and he failed to finish in Sunday’s race.
Kitzbühel Slalom, Jan. 22
The downhill events normally take center stage in Kitzbühel, but this year’s slalom event also made headlines after Great Britain’s Dave Ryding became the first Brit to claim a World Cup victory in the 55-year history of the World Cup.
Fresh snow and low visibility made for exceptionally challenging course conditions in Saturday’s slalom, so much so that even the best technical racers in the world struggled to complete the course. Of the 68 competitors, 22 did not finish the first run after straddling gates, missing gates altogether, or crashing out of the course. Ryding found himself in sixth place after the first run, .81 seconds off the pace set by Italian Alex Vinatzer.
But the men fared no better in the second run than in the first, with 11 racers DNFing, including frontrunners like France’s Alexis Pinturault, Switzerland’s Daniel Yule, and Norway’s Sebastian Voss-Solevaag, who sat in third place after the first run. Ryding, on the other hand, skied a strong—and more importantly, clean—second run. It wasn’t the fastest second run, but it proved enough to earn him a career-first World Cup win after the other top contenders didn’t manage to string together two clean runs.
When all was said and done, Ryding led only 19 other finishers in the results of Saturday’s race. Norway’s Lucas Braathen finished second, .38 off of Ryding’s time, and Henrik Kristoffersen, also of Norway, finished third, .65 seconds behind Ryding.
Watch: Dave Ryding makes history with first World Cup victory for Great Britain
“You know, I’m 35 now, but I never stopped believing. I never stopped trying,” Ryding said. “To bring the first World Cup victory for Britain—in Kitzbühel—I mean, I don’t know if dreams are made better.”
American Luke Winters was the only American to make the final results in Saturday’s event. He improved upon a strong first run that had him in 13th with an even cleaner second run to finish 11th, overall.
Braathen still has a healthy lead in the slalom standings with 235 points. His teammate Voss-Solevaag sits in second with 180 points while Yule trails in third with 162 points.
The men’s speed circuit is now on pause as competitors travel to Beijing for the 2022 Games, while the tech racers get one more dry rehearsal for the for Olympics with the slalom in Schladming, Austria on Jan. 25.