A tiny mistake in the morning run both motivated and miffed Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg.
The bobble left her nearly a second out of the lead, leaving her no other choice but to ski with a little aggression and a bit of anger on her second trip down the demanding course.
Darting through the shadows with a go-for-broke mentality, Rebensburg made up ground and held off Elisabeth Goergl of Austria to win a World Cup giant slalom on Saturday. It was Rebensburg's fourth World Cup win in her career — all in this discipline.
“I was angry at myself (for the mistake),” Rebensburg said. “But I knew if I could put everything together, maybe it could work for a win. It worked.”
Just like Rebensburg, Julia Mancuso hardly let off the accelerator and powered down the hill as she finished third. With that, Mancuso became the first American to wind up on the podium at this venue since 2004.
“I always wanted to end the spell,” Mancuso said, grinning. “Everyone talks about the excitement of getting America on the podium. I'm glad I could bring that to the crowd.”
Rebensburg certainly brought the excitement to the slopes, blazing through the course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 11.25 seconds.
After her blistering final run, all she could do was anxiously wait to see if Goergl would better her time.
Not today. Not on this bumpy and twisting course.
Goergl, the leader after the first run, finished 0.33 seconds behind.
“My heart was beating pretty (hard) when Liz came to the last pitch down there,” Rebensburg said. “I didn't know if it was enough for me. I knew I had to push the limit. I really pushed.”
Her teammate, reigning overall World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, caught an edge on her final run, skidded off course and didn't finish.
Lindsey Vonn also had a rough day, finishing in 21st place after the first run. But she turned in a solid second run to wind up 12th, 1.74 seconds behind Rebensburg.
“It felt better, definitely more aggressive,” Vonn said. “I felt more like myself.”
Vonn's confidence was soaring heading into this event, too, especially after winning the season-opening giant slalom race in Soelden, Austria, last month. But on a course that's always given her trouble, Vonn held back on her first pass.
Part of her lack of aggression may have been due to this: Vonn tweaked her back last week and has been limited in training. She has been relying on massages and heating pads to keep her back loose.
“I try not to talk about my injuries anymore, but there's always something going on so I have to do my best and keep doing therapy and try to stay as healthy as I can,” Vonn said. “It's a long season and I got to make it through.”
France's Tessa Worley, the reigning champion at Aspen, failed to successfully navigate the course in the first run, as did Italy's Federica Brignone, one of the favourites to wind up on the podium.
Lara Gut of Switzerland wound up fifth despite having the second-fastest time in the morning. Then again, that performance almost came as a surprise to her. Gut typically doesn't fare well on the slopes in America.
“Normally, I'm always slow on this snow,” Gut said. “I like everything in the U.S., but I still have to make a relationship with the snow.”
Mancuso entered the Aspen event with a little bit of momentum after finishing 10th in Soelden.
And that was with her mind not even fully wrapped around racing yet.
“Going into Soelden, I wasn't quite prepared,” said Mancuso, who wore an ice blue ski suit with a trail map of her home resort in Squaw Valley, Calif., emblazoned on it. “I wasn't in a racing mindset. I got together my racing game and now I'm more focused on the season.”
It certainly showed on her second run as she earned her first podium finish in the GS since Dec. 28, 2007.
“I really charged,” Mancuso said. “I held in there and was psyched to hold on to a podium spot.”
For Goergl, this was an opportunity missed, especially after such a sizzling opening run.
“The second run was not so good like the first run, of course, but I kept fighting and going for it,” Goergl said.
Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. had a solid opening run, but missed qualifying for another run.
“I had a lot of fun, made some mistakes, had some good turns and overall had a good run,” said the 16-year-old Shiffrin, who's competing in her first full season on the World Cup circuit.
“It's always a disappointment to come down and know that you didn't make second run. But at the same time I'm happy with many of the turns that I made and I just want to keep this good positive feeling going.”
For U.S. skier Resi Stiegler, this race was as much about vanquishing bad thoughts about the GS as qualifying for a second run.
In December 2007, Stiegler wiped out during the GS in Lienz, Austria. She caught an edge, went through the fencing, did a cartwheel and crashed into a stump, breaking her right leg, left arm and tearing all the ligaments in her right knee. Two years later, while training for the giant slalom at Copper Mountain, she tumbled again, slamming into the snow and breaking her left leg.
She swore off the giant slalom, but had a change of heart this season. She wound up 39th and didn't make the field for a second run.
“I'm a little sad because I didn't charge it as much as I could have,” Stiegler said. “Just got to keep going for it.”
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