Aspen, CO – Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany bested the world’s top female skiers to win the giant slalom at the 2009 Aspen Winternational Audi FIS Women’s Alpine World Cup on Saturday, completing the course with a combined time of 2:09:63, nearly a quarter of a second faster than the second place finisher, Kathrin Zettel of Austria. Federica Brignone from Italy rounded out the podium in third with a time of 2:10:76.
“The surface was perfect for me,” says Hoelzl. “Last year I did not ski so well here, but this year was different.”
With the victory Hoezl vaults to second place in the FIS Giant Slalom standings with 136 points. Zettel sits at the top of the GS standings with 160 points.
Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley, Calif. was the top American, finishing thirteenth after slipping from first place after the first run.
“I am psyched to get two solid runs in. The second run could have been better, but I made it to the finish and it feels pretty good,” Mancuso said. “It’s really good. I hope to get back into the top 15. I’m right outside, so hopefully I can get enough points to get in there.”
According to Mancuso, while the course did present some difficulty with light and ski chatter, she is pleased with a result that alludes to the return of good results and continuity in her racing.
“The course was a little bit difficult for me. It was hard to get my rhythm. I definitely could have done better, but it felt good to get two solid runs. It’s a lot better than Soelden and it’s a good place to start,” Mancuso said. “I like hard snow, but I don’t like it too chattery. This was a little chattery and hopefully we’ll get better conditions tomorrow.”
And for Mancuso, it’s all about tomorrow as she looks ahead to the rest of her 2010 season positively.
“It helps a lot just to know I can charge again and really just go for it. It’s made a big difference because I don’t want to be tentative when I leave the start gate,” Mancuso said.
Following Mancuso for the U.S. was Colorado native Sarah Schleper (Vail, Colo.) who raced with her family cheering her on to finish 23rd. According to Schleper, the Strawpile course presented a lot of challenges for the racers and required a lot of confidence.
“I think I skied the top well and the course was so smooth this time when I went down. But, I went a little too round and I think I was too conservative,” Schleper said. “The middle section here is so technically demanding. The terrain is so undulating and it’s the iciest part of the course so if you’re not charging and super confident it’s really easy to lose time out there.”
Megan McJames (Park City, Utah) also made the second run of the race and was hammering the top of the course during run two when she slid out and did not finish.
The crowd in Aspen was fired up for the U.S. Team and, in particular, for World Champion and World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) to race. But, a rock on the course threw the powerhouse off kilter and she was unable to make the top 30.
“I hit a rock about halfway down and my right foot just wasn’t holding anymore. I slid out about four times.” Vonn said. “I was just trying to make it down and I was laughing at myself because of how big of a tool I looked like. On this pond ice you really have no chance unless you have a sharp edge.”
But, it was the fans in the finish that lifted Vonn’s spirits, and as she waved to a group of young girls boasting a Lindsey Vonn poster, she explained what she hopes from Sunday’s slalom race in Aspen.
“These guys are out here cheering for me and they don’t care if I came in last place, they’re still cheering me on and that definitely makes me happy because today was not my best day,” Vonn said. “Aspen is the toughest place for me. It has so much terrain and its pond ice, but I’ll do the best I can and hopefully tomorrow goes better.”
The Aspen Winternational concludes on Sunday with a World Cup women’s slalom. Tonight, the John Popper Project featuring DJ Logic will play a free concert at the base of Aspen Mountain as part of the Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series followed by fireworks.
2010 AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Aspen, CO – Nov. 28, 2009
1. Kathrin Hoelzl, Germany, 2:09:63
2. Kathrin Zettel, Austria, 2:09.87
3. Federica Brignone, Italy, 2:10.76
4. Maria Pietilae-Holmner, Sewden, 2:11.18
5. Eva-Maria Brem, Austria