BANSKO, Bulgaria (Feb. 26 – Ski Racing Magazine News Service) – Put a few medals in a guys pocket and nothing phases him. Christof Innerhofer faced an unusual slalom first combined on a track the men had never seen before at Bansko, Bulgaria today. Instead of anticipated fog (the reason for going slalom first) they got sugary snow and none of it seemed to matter to the Italian triple medal winner.
When you’re hot, you’re hot. Innerhofer seemed oblivious to the conditions or surface and eked out a .01 of a second margin over Felix Neureuther, no doubt seething a bit from the World Championship on his home hill where he couldn’t get it going. Frenchman Thomas Mermillod Blondin was third and Ted Ligety fourth matching his career best Cup result in the discipline from 2006 – the same year he won the gold medal in combined at the Olympics.
“When you are on a roll, keep rolling,” said Innerhofer. He could only explain his new found success by saying he was in the same frame of mind as he was at Garmisch for the World Championships.”I don’t know how long this will go on, but I’m thrilled.”
Ligety said he was pleased with his super G leg, but felt he could have done more with the slalom course, set by U.S. coach Mike Kenney. “I didn’t feel like I had the greatest slalom in the world, but by super G run was pretty good. It was a pretty GS friendly super G hill, so that worked out well for me.”
A stunningly strong result was put up by Tim Jitloff in eighth. It is just his second combined result, just his second top 10 finish and his best in two years.
“Jitloff did a hell of a job in the first run,” said U.S. coach Sasha Rearick, “skied clean and moved with the terrain well. It was a rough course. It held up but was rough with changing snow conditions.”
The coach said he was also pleased with the effort of Colby Granstrom, the 31st finisher. He said he was particularly good from the midsection down. “I’m stoked to see him come out and execute that level of skiing in a World Cup.”
Granstrom was 15th in the slalom leg, then experienced back spasms. He gutted out the super G leg and nearly scored despite what he called “a 360” on the super G course.
Ivica Kostelic – the winner of the other three combineds this season and already the title winner, was fifth. He now appears to have clear sailing to the overall title as his three top competitors didn’t play. Didier Cuche had thumb surgery last week and Silvan Zurbriggen was also a no-show. There was no reported injury but he did fail to finish the last race at World Championships, the slalom. Askel Lund Svindal also elected not to travel to Bansko.
Kostelic now owns a 569pt lead over Cuche and 581pt lead over Svindal and a 591 advantage over Zurbriggen with a maximum of 10 races remaining.
For more details including results visit SkiRacing.com.