Austrian Reichelt spoils Swiss day to win World Cup downhill
WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — Hannes Reichelt of Austria spoiled Switzerland’s big day to win the host nation’s signature World Cup downhill on Sunday.
Reichelt took victory ahead of three Swiss former winners of the storied Wengen race in what shaped as a classic renewal for the home crowd of 24,000 before it was mostly silenced by the Austrian’s run.
Beat Feuz was runner-up, 0.12 seconds behind Reichelt’s time of 2 minutes, 36.14 seconds down the grueling 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) Lauberhorn course.
Third-place Carlo Janka was the longtime leader until Feuz went 0.02 faster and defending champion Patrick Kueng, racing immediately after Reichelt, was fourth.
“I hope the Swiss people don’t mind too much me winning,” Reichelt, who trailed Feuz’s time until the final S-bend, told The Associated Press.
Reichelt’s ninth career World Cup win, and second this season, came after being second to Kueng a year ago and third here in 2013.
The 34-year-old Austrian’s previous downhill win was his home classic at Kitzbuehel last January. Two days later, Reichelt underwent back surgery which ruled him out of the Sochi Olympics when he was an expected contender in downhill and super-G.
“It’s been an incredible year for me after my surgery,” Reichelt said. “Not every guy comes back at this level after that kind of injury.”
Feuz got arguably his best result since winning here in the 2012 season when he was edged for the overall World Cup title by Austrian Marcel Hirscher.
“We nearly made the perfect show for the fans,” said the 27-year-old Feuz whose career was stalled by a knee injury complicated by blood poisoning.
World Cup downhill standings leader Kjetil Jansrud of Norway was fifth, trailing 1.11 behind Reichelt after losing speed in the second half of his run.
“It’s a stupid mistake but everybody is tired down there. It cost me at least the fight for the podium,” said Jansrud, who was runner-up when Reichelt won a World Cup super-G in December at Beaver Creek, Colorado.
That same American course hosts the world championships next month.
“He’s going to be one of the favorites,” Jansrud said of Reichelt’s comeback from injury. “It’s not a surprise for me, I knew he would be a contender.”
Sunday’s race was run in picture-perfect conditions beneath the Eiger and Jungfrau mountain peaks, with blue skies and bright sunshine.
Still, the race surface was a tricky mix of softer and icier patches after course workers cleared around 40 centimeters (16 inches) of snow from parts of the hill overnight.
The softer conditions made the longest race on the World Cup circuit even more tiring than usual.
On crossing the finish line, Janka crashed down and skidded 30 meters (yards) on his side into a safety airbag. He was unhurt.
Among several racers who skied out, Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Canada crashed taking a too-tight racing line approaching the final turn and went into safety nets.
“I guess I was too tired,” said the 30-year-old Osborne-Paradis, who was runner-up in Janka’s 2010 victory here. “The hard part is when you get old like me, everything hurts.”
Like Reichelt, Bode Miller of the United States underwent surgery last year on a herniated disk and is attempting a comeback at his home world championships.
Miller did not race this week on his return to the World Cup circuit but got an extra training run Sunday 15 minutes before the official start. He carried small cameras strapped to his chest and right leg to give NBC viewers a racer’s view of a course where he has won twice.
Switzerland placed seven men in the top 12, one week after the team’s dispiriting World Cup results at nearby Adelboden.
Olympic super-combined champion Sandro Viletta was eighth, and Didier Defago, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist in downhill, was 10th in his final home classic before retiring.
Defago’s victory here in 2009 started a run of four Swiss wins in six Lauberhorn editions — but Reichelt took a fifth away Sunday.