Ligety maintains first place in GS | ParkRecord.com

Ligety maintains first place in GS

Paul Robbins, Special to the Record

Straight-shooters are usually good guys. Straight race courses in skiing can be troublesome.

Ask Parkite Ted Ligety, who held onto his No. 1 spot in the World Cup giant slalom standings over the weekend. But he did it the hard way: overcoming two straight courses Saturday to finish third in the third GS of the season, this one in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria

The leader in each discipline (slalom, GS, downhill, et.) wears a red bib so course spectators, who otherwise might be distracted – or be clueless, know right away here’s someone to watch.

"I’m liking this red bib. It’s comfortable," he joked. "And it clashes nicely with my [pink] goggles. Yeah, red bib and pink Shred goggles. That works." More laughter as he enjoyed working a plug for his line of goggles (Shred) into the post-race cell phone call.

His second podium of the season, following his second-place result in the opening on a glacier elsewhere in Austria six weeks earlier, was the high point of the weekend for U.S. men, who had gone back to Europe after the Charles Schwab Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek, Colo. No one finished in the top 30 Sunday in a slalom.

Two Italians led the GS Saturday. Max Blardone, who won the Birds of Prey GS a year ago, won the fourth race of his career. His two-run time was 2:10.75 with Manfred Moelgg second in 2:10.84. Ligety was third with a 2:10.92 clocking and Bode Miller, the only other U.S. man to make the second run, finished seventh (2:11.67).

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With a big hill and plenty of room to set a sweeping course that was technical, the gents got two down-the-fall-line, tight (i.e., few real turns) runs.

"The set was not good for me – it was super, super straight," Ligety said. "They took it straight down the hill. My second run was a little haggard, on the edge. The course was a little bumpy but it really held up great."

Head Coach Phil McNichol was pleased with the way Ligety shrugged off the narrow course-set and still laid down two strong runs for the podium.

"It was your basic Clint Eastwood movie – ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ Ted didn’t get a favorable course-set on either run," the coach said, "and he made some mistakes, but he was moving.

"This is a big, wide hill – one of the most challenging we’ll see – and I would have thought they’d put some swing into it, go side to side a little more. But they ran it pretty much down the fall line, a straight course for each run. He adapted beautifully on each run and took it down the hill, full-on, as usual for Ted."

Sunday, Austrian Benjamin Raich picked off the 30th win of his brilliant career, winning the slalom with a time of 1:34.46. Jimmy Cochran was the only American to get into the second run, finishing seventh in the first run. However, as he tore through the second run, he went off course.

Ligety didn’t finish the first run and none of the others were in the top 30 to make the second run.

Men’s tech (slalom/GS) Head Coach Sasha Rearick refused an all doom-and-gloom review of the slalom. He still saw silver linings to the day.

"We don’t have any points for the day, but I saw some good things out there. Jimmy was going for the podium and taking risks. When you attack like that, you take risks and sometimes it gets you," he explained.

"Last time [in Reiteralm, Austria, a month ago], he was fourth in the first run and cut back a little on his second run and finished 14th. This time he was going for it all the way."

Next races for the men are in Italy – super-G Friday and downhill Saturday in Val Gardena with giant slalom and slalom Sunday-Monday in Alta Badia.