The longstanding record of 4 Hahnenkamm downhill wins made by Franz Klammer in the 70’s and 80’s has been bettered – Didier Cuche achieved an outstanding 5th victory in the most inclement of conditions.
“That record was my final thought before I left the start gate,” Cuche said. “Somehow it helped me to relax a bit and to enjoy my run.”
The all-time Hahnenkamm Champion – Didier Cuche
For those of you who don’t know the Hahnenhamm and its reputation, here’s a short course on it…
The Hahnenhamm is a black run, the mother of all black runs, found in the popular resort of Kitzbuehel, Austria. The most famous slope on the Hahnenkamm is the classic downhill course, the Streif (streak, or stripe), which is regarded as the most demanding race course on the World Cup circuit. The course features highly technical, “fall-away” turns (reverse bank), many with limited visibility. It also contains several flat gliding sections, immediately preceded by difficult turns, placing a premium on both technical and gliding skills and it is mostly in the shade in January. Usually overcast and often coupled with fog, the result is a “flat” light which compounds the course’s difficulty, and because it is in the shade it is very prone to icy conditions.
The conditions on Saturday, the day of the men’s downhill alpine race, were appalling. It was snowing heavily, so heavily that the race was nearly cancelled. Instead it was decided to let it run but on a much shorter course – starting at the Alte Schneise, it was 2 kms instead of 3.3. “It was not easy to race,” Baumann said. “Your visibility was hampered by snow on your goggles. On such a shortened course, you can’t allow yourself to make any mistake.” The snowfall became heavier during the race and slowed late starters. Many of the pre-race favorites battled with the conditions. A storm had dumped 8 inches of snow the night before and continuous snowfall made the upper sections — some of the most treacherous — dangerous and difficult to maintain for all 63 skiers.
No-one knows more than American Bode Miller how dangerous the course was. He barely avoided a crash in the icy lower section of the course commenting later that “these were less than ideal conditions. It feels good to make a save like that. Those are life-savers. One hundred points is great, but I always try to be at the finish with all my parts intact!”
I saw that run and how he managed to stay on his feet I have no idea! Lightning fast reactions and the balance of a cat!!!
Cuche completed Kitzbuehel’s infamous Hahnenkamm course in 1 minute, 13.28 seconds in the driving snow and beat Austrian pair Romed Baumann and Klaus Kroell by 0.24 and 0.30 seconds, respectively. It is a fitting way to end his incredible career… the 18-time World Cup winner, who is already the oldest skier, at 37, to win a World Cup race, announced his retirement on Thursday.
Franz Klammer of Austria was there to congratulate him at the bottom of the run. “Cuche is now the emperor of Kitzbuehel, I can live with that,” said the 58-year-old Klammer, before joking, although “I think he should have quit already before this season!”
Didier Cuche has 18 World Cup wins, and 61 podium finishes. He has amassed a staggering 171 top 10 finishes. He also won an Olympic silver at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan and picked up one gold, two silvers and four bronze at World Championships. Very popular with his Swiss fans, he was awarded the Swiss of the Year award earlier this month.