What a day, what a race: Cater wins

'It is a funny old world' the saying goes, and the FIS Audi Alpine World Cup Downhill in Val d'Isere was a race full of excitement and intrigue with numerous scenarios being acted out with each racer finishing. From the Swiss looking for a double win, then the Attacking Vikings holding the Ace card, then the pendulum swung back in favour of the Swiss, then the Austrians looked like ending a fifteen year winless streak in Val d'Isere and then just as the interviews were being completed, it was the Slovenians that marched in and took the opening race win of the Downhill season with Martin Cater from bib 41. The only thing missing to enjoy a great start to the season were the crowds.

These were almost perfect conditions for speed racing. There were racers that were concerned that the snow conditions would be variable down the course due to warmer temperatures overnight before the race but in fairness the course held up despite a number of crashes from the Canadian team that saw Brodie Seger and Cameron Alexander both crash with the latter having to be taken off the hill by the mountain rescue team. Seger crashed within distance of the finish and managing to fly through the gap between the advertising banners and the finish timing set up when going through the finish banner was the wider gap!

Mauro Caviezel got the race going and set the pace despite carrying a flag between his legs for a lot of the mid section of the course. This cost him time but it remained to be seen how competitive the time would be. Kjetil Jansrud going three had an almost second lead before making a mistake and shredding all that and five hundredths to go in behind the Swiss racer. With that, the first issue for the statisticians to bring up was how long it had been since the same racer had won both races in Val d'Isere?

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde was the next of the top seeds to go and Kilde put an end to that line of thought as he went a whopping 0.73 ahead of Caviezel. Was this to be the Attacking Viking's day? Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal had pulled the roost back in 2016 when the races were last held down the OK course, could Kilde continue the streak?

First Matthias Mayer and then Beat Feuz failed to better the time set by Kilde on his Atomic's and you could start to believe in the finish that the defending Overall Champion was going to be in luck for the win.

From bib 14, 26 year old Urs Kryenbuehl then produced what many thought at the time to be the shock of the day as he bettered Kilde's time. Kryenbuehl had one top ten result before, almost a year to the day ago in Bormio where he came second in the Downhill but that was it. While the Swiss team are probably the best prepared team on the tour after good use of the Zermatt Glacier over the summer, race wins were more likely to come from the likes of Feuz, Caviezel or Janka.

Fifteen years is a long to wait for another win for the Austrians and Michi Waldhofer's win in 2005 is almost a distant memory so when Otmar Striedinger started his run, not many believed he would add to his career podium haul. It was seven years since he had placed second in Beaver Creek bit he had been third in the World Cup Finals in 2019, one of 13 top ten results in his career. Striedinger has been beset with injuries and as a result this was only his 111th World Cup start for the 29 year old. He threw the stats out the window and pushed the Swiss racer Kryenbuehl out of the leaders enclosure.

As is customary at the end of the first thirty racers to start, the top three are paraded in front of the photographers for the first snaps to be sent off.

Oh how the racers in that picture, Kilde, Kryenbuehl and Striedinger must have wished that things would have stayed like that. When Cameron Alexander crashed heavily and the race was halted for him to be taken down by the mountain rescue, they must have hoped that this could delay the race long enough for it to be called a result.

The script did not get up to the start in time and Martin Cater produced the run of his career. This was start number 95 for the 27 year old Slovenian who had never been in the top five apart from in Team Events on the World Cup. When he crossed the line, he could hardly believe the position that he was in. Memories of Antoine Deneriaz winning the 2006 Olympic Downhill as Michael Walchofer was conducting interviews came to mind. This was what dreams are made of.

Cater had the fastest time on course from the fourth split down, this was the area that many were concerned that the snow would be its softest. His ability to be soft on his Stöckli skis was what allowed him to glide into the finish.

The win will lift Cater up into starting the next World Cup Downhill in the top twenty as he has jumped up to 21 on the WCSL list but Thomas Dressen is still out injured.

No joy for Jack Gower in the race. Gower is still learning the ropes in Downhill, he is a much stronger Super G skier but is benefiting from the support being offered by Jan Hudec, the ex Canadian and Czech World Cup racer who has taken him under his support. Gower finished in 57th place.

Full results

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