There seems to be no limits to the levels of endurance Swiss star Didier Cuche can endure. After the races last week, he visited a doctor for painkilling injections to his back and then took on the Classic that is the Saslong – Val Gardena! For a while it looked like he would even walk away with the win but straight after the top seeds came down, Slalom specialist Silvan Zurbriggan came down and stole the show by a tenth of a second. Robert Baumann then came down and nudged Cuche down to third.
Didier Cuche was on top form in the Downhill and had it not been for a large error at Ciaslat, then it could well have been a victory he celebrated after the race. While he stood in the winners enclosure as the race unfolded, Cuche was able to start to entertain the thoughts of winning on the Classic Course, yet he was asked by German TV during the break after the top seeds had been down, if he thought he had won. Such is the magnitude of the Swiss stars respect for the course, he admitted that he would only celebrate after the race had finished! And then came Zurbriggan!
The day though was a great day for the HEAD racers. With Cuche on the podium, there were a number of new names making names for themselves on this demanding track: Guillermo Fayed produced a career best result in Downhill to finish sixth from a start number of 49; Stephan Keppler added to his growing reputation in taking tenth after his second place in the Super G the day before; Louis-Pelie Helie from Canada, on his first trip to the Saslong came down from 56 to place in 13th just ahead of Hans Ollson.
It was a busy day for Rainer Salzgeber as his group of athletes attacked the top thirty finishers – five appeared in the top fifteen! Salzgeber wanted the win yet had it not been for the mistake made by Cuche at Ciaslat then this would have been achieved. Salzgeber was a man in demand to talk to the press but with each HEAD racer coming down and breaking into the top thirty, there were more requests to speak with the racers and skis had to be looked after. This was a busy day at the office.
Another Canadian, Ben Thomson, again on his first trip to the Saslong, made the most of having to qualify from the Canadian Team to record a career best in 16th just ahead of Bode Miller with Tobias Stechert in 18th, Werner Heel in 20th, Hans Grugger in 23rd and Aksel Lund Svindal in 26th.
The Saslong was as fearsome as ever and after two of the first four racers had crashed spectacularly, the respect the racers gave the course was there to be seen. Yet for Didier Cuche the determination and grit of the great man was there for all to see as he almost captured the win but had to be content with third.
1. Silvan Zurbriggan (SUI)
2. Romed Baumann (AUT)
3. DIDIER CUCHE (SUI) HEAD
6 Guillermo Fayed (FRA) HEAD
10 Stephan Keppler (GER) HEAD
13 Louis-Pelie Helie (CAN) HEAD
14 Hans Ollson (SWE) HEAD
16 Ben Thomson (CAN) HEAD
17 Bode Miller (USA) HEAD
18 Tobias Stechert (GER) HEAD
20 Werner Heel (ITA) HEAD
23 Hans Grugger (AUT) HEAD
26 Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) HEAD