BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Second place wasn’t ideal for Ted Ligety in Sunday’s World Cup giant slalom at Beaver Creek, so when he got the opportunity for a re-match on Tuesday, he made sure to leave everyone far behind.
Firing down the second run with what he said was absolutely all he had in him, Ligety set himself apart from the rest of the field by well over half a second.
Under bright sun but in frigid subzero temperatures, the three-time World Cup GS champ crossed the finish line of the Val d'Isere replacement race in Beaver Creek with a combined time of 2 minutes, 40.01 seconds. While the field was stacked closely with only tenths and hundredths between the leaders after the first run, Ligety’s closest contender in the end was Sunday’s GS winner Marcel Hirscher. Only this time the Austrian, who missed the last part of last season after an ankle injury in February, was 0.69 seconds off the winning time. After recovering from a near-crash in the first run, Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud also laid the hammer down in the second run to round out the podium, 0.78 seconds back.
“The second run I was definitely skiing with a lot more intensity and a little more anger,” Ligety said. “Sunday I was hoping to get the win there in front of a bunch of friends and family but Hirscher skied great that day. Today I wanted some redemption. I pushed super, super hard that last run. It was pretty close to the limit there.”
It’s been a while since Ligety won a race without taking an early lead. On Tuesday, young Alexis Pinturault of France set the bar to lead the first run but fell to fourth in the finish, 0.90 seconds back.
Ligety said it wasn’t necessarily easier or less pressure to come from the back (he was in fourth place but just 0.14 seconds back after the first run) for the win.
“I think I’ve gotten used to skiing with the pressure after being first after the first run and sometimes it’s kind of nice when you cross the finish line and you know exactly where you stand,” he said. “When you’re in fourth place with the lead, you might end up in fourth place, so it’s nice to come down and know exactly what happened.”
Although a large portion of Ligety’s fan club went home after the weekend, his parents and a small contingent stuck around to see him win on Tuesday. While the American turned on the gas for the second run, Hirscher took it less aggressively. The Austrian was leading the first run and snagged a gate near the bottom of the course, finishing 0.11 seconds behind Pinturault. He iced his hand between runs and said perhaps he didn’t push it as much as he could have in the second.
“I was not that aggressive like in the first run, but I tried to do my best,” Hirscher said. “I knew someone could be faster than me. It wasn’t a perfect run. I’m very lucky to be second today.”
When asked what it was like to go head-to-head with Ligety, who Hirscher has dubbed “Mr. GS,” the Austrian, who beat Ligety on Sunday said, “it’s amazing. Hopefully it’s going on the whole season and hopefully I can beat him.”
As far as what sets Ligety apart, Hirscher said it’s in the tightness of his turns.
“He is super carver,” Hirscher said. “No drifting, every turn on the edges … that’s the big difference between him and me.”
While Hirscher may have held back a bit the second run, Jansrud, who went up on one ski and recovered to make the next gate at the top of the first run with a half a second to make up in the second, said he, like Ligety, was also charging the second run.
“I didn’t know where I was there for a couple of seconds,” said Jansrud, who was fourth Sunday and second in last year’s GS at Beaver Creek. “Half a second is not impossible, but when you have these guys ahead of you, it’s a little more difficult. I thought I skied a good second run until Ted came down.”
Behind Pinturault in fourth place (Ligety said he is sure the Frenchman is going to beat him at some point this season), Hannes Reichelt landed in fifth Tuesday, 0.95 seconds back and Aksel Lund Svindal, who was 0.13 seconds back after the first run, landed in sixth, 1.18 seconds back, and leads the overall World Cup standings with 334 points. German Fritz Dopfer, who landed his first World Cup top 10 and with it a podium on Sunday, had another strong race Tuesday, finishing seventh, 1.57 seconds back. France’s Cyprien Richard was eighth, 1.61 seconds back, Italian Davide Simoncelli was ninth, 1.80 seconds back and wearing bib No. 37, Tim Jitloff was 10th, 1.95 seconds back.
by Shauna Farnell