There is one venue on the FIS World Cup tour that is particularly notorious in the world of speed skiing: Kitzbühel. The Streif downhill course is legendary for some of the worst crashes, biggest upsets, and propelling many skiers to fame. At the same time, the festival of the Hahnenkamm-Rennen is equally well known for wild parties during the races. This year, 75,000 people watched the competition over its three days.
With a tricky weather forecast, the schedule of events started with the downhill on Friday. Austrians Hannes Reichelt and Matthias Mayer, wearing bibs 1 and 3, started off strong, along with Germany’s Josef Ferstl in bib 4.
The podium was shaken up by Switzerland’s Beat Feuz. Wearing bib 7, Feuz’s time was a full 0.90 seconds ahead of Ferstl's, putting him in a dominant first place position.
The weather and course conditions proved to be a factor this year, as three of the strongest downhillers on the tour (Austrians Vincent Kriechmayr, Max Franz, and Frenchman Brice Roger) all failed to finish the course, one after the other wearing bibs 9, 10, and 11.
But Dominik Paris, wearing bib 13, was entirely unfazed by the conditions. The Italian has won the Streif downhill twice before (2013, 2017), and used his experience on the course to finish ahead of Feuz by 0.20 seconds. The time would remain the fastest of the day, giving Paris his third downhill title in Kitzbühel, tying him for third with the most all time wins on the course behind Didier Cuche (5) and Franz Klammer (4).
The podium looked set to include Paris’ Italian teammate Christof Innerhofer, who was in third place and 0.37 seconds behind the leader, but Austria’s Otmar Striedinger hadn't yet had his say. Racing on home snow and wearing bib 27, the 27-year-old had a very strong run, finishing in third place behind Feuz. It was Striedinger’s second ever FIS World Cup podium, and his first since a third place super-G finish at Beaver Creek in 2013.
Squaw Valley skiers Bryce Bennett and Travis Ganong finished 14th and 19th respectively, and are looking forward to putting down more aggressive runs to win on the Streif in the future. “I crossed the finish line today and I was like ‘that's doable,'’’ Bennett said after his run, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “I think it's totally possible to be one of the competitive guys here, and I’m looking forward to the future.”
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Other Americans who finished the downhill on Friday included Wiley Maple (Aspen, Colo.) in 38th and Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah) in 43rd.
Clement Noel Wins Second Slalom in a Row
Coming off a win last week in Wengen, Switzlerand, France’s Clement Noel once again beat Austrian Marcel Hirscher in a slalom race, this time on Hirscher’s home snow. Just like in Wengen, Noel’s first run time was fast enough to hold off Hirscher despite the Austrian’s blistering fast second run, 0.20 seconds faster than any other run that day. Noel’s combined time was 0.29 seconds faster than Hirscher’s.
Noel’s French teammate Alexis Pinturault rounded out the podium in third, 0.36 behind the winner. The older Frenchman seems to be coming into his stride after finishing third in the Wengen Alpine Combined and second in the Zagreb, Croatia slalom a few weeks ago.
Like father like son: Ferstl Wins Super-G 40 Years after his Father won Kitzbühel Downhill
Germany's Sepp Ferstl won gold on the Steif downhill in 1978 and 1979. Forty years later, his son Josef “Pepi” Ferstl earned gold in the super-G on the same famous slope. The younger Ferstl wore bib number 1, and with a time of 1:13.07 was just fast enough to keep the lead for the rest of the day, even though five other racers came within 0.20 seconds of his winning time. It was Pepi Ferstl's second win after taking gold in the Val Gardena super-G in 2017.
Frenchman Johan Clarey was only 0.08 seconds behind Ferstl, which was good enough for second. Downhill champion Dominik Paris rounded out the podium in third, 0.10 seconds behind Ferstl. Austrian Vincen Kriechmayr finished fourth, marking he first time in 18 years that an Austrian was not on the podium in the Kitzbühel super-G.
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Ganong was the fastest American, finishing 18th and 0.75 seconds behind Ferstl. Samuel Dupratt finished in 29th, earning World Cup points. Tommy Biesemeyer, Maple, and Goldberg completed the course but finished outside of the top 30.