Bennett takes his first World Cup victory in the downhill classic in Val Gardena

Big surprise in the downhill classic on the Saslong: The American Bryce Bennett outdid the entire competition in the highlight of the Val Gardena/Gröden race week claiming his first World Cup victory with a bold performance.

Bennett took advantage of the bright sunshine and snatched his first gold with a time of 2:02.42 minutes. Even though the 29-year-old has repeatedly produced strong results at the base of the the Sassolungo/Langkofel mountain in recent years, his victory still comes as a little surprise: in his 106 World Cup starts to date, Bennett has never finished better than fourth - now he is beaming from the highest step of the podium with his first top-three result in the World Cup.

Behind Bennett, two other racers who were not exactly expected to place on the podium completed the top three. Otmar Striedinger from Austria lost 14/100 to the day's winner and finished second, while Niels Hintermann from Switzerland came in third, 32/100 behind. For both athletes it was the first podium finish this winter. Hundertstel Rückstand an dritter Stelle. Für beide Athleten war es der erste Podestplatz in diesem Winter.

Paris misses the podium by a hair's breadth

A convincing performance was also given by local hero Dominik Paris, who finished the race in fourth place. The powerhouse from the Ulten Valley was on course for winning the race for the longest time before losing time in the Ciaslat falling behind the fastest three. While oldie Johan Clarey (France) and Beat Feuz (Switzerland) finished a few hundredths behind Paris in fifth and sixth place, the "Azzurro" Mattia Casse, who started with the high bib number 34, came in a strong seventh.

In addition to Paris and Casse, only one other racer from the Italian team collected World Cup points in the downhill classic, Christof Innerhofer (17th). All the other local racers had to settle for places outside the top 30 or were eliminated.

Kilde suffers bad luck

The Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde was one of today’s tragic heroes of the downhill: the 29-year-old outstanding skier, who had started as the undisputed top favorite, was eliminated after a leading best time and remained without points one day after his victory in the super-G. Unfortunately, the result of the downhill was a disappointment.

This is what the fastest downhillers said

Bryce Bennett (USA/1st place): "I've never been on the podium in my career and now I'm winning here in Val Gardena/Gröden - that's incredible! The level was already enormously high from the first training run, so it is even more impressive that I was able to keep up with all the world-class athletes. I simply feel comfortable in Val Gardena/Gröden and like everything about the course from the many jumps to the Ciaslat. I had a clear plan for the downhill and went to the start with a relaxed mind. My expectations for the race were not high at all - that makes the victory even more beautiful."

Otmar Striedinger (AUT/2nd place): "I'm going home with mixed feelings, as I've now narrowly missed my first World Cup victory for the umpteenth time. I will find the missing 14/100 right away when analyzing my run - but mistakes happen and are part of skiing. Overall, though, I'm very satisfied with my performance, so the joy about second place prevails."

Niels Hintermann (SUI/3rd place): "When I looked at the scoreboard at the finish, I was actually not completely satisfied. I felt that my run wasn't bad - but there were still a few places that I didn't nail 100%. My race wasn’t completely clean, especially in the upper part, but then was ok through Ciaslat. Anyway, the result itself surprises me a bit, because at the beginning I expected a top ten result at most."

Dominik Paris (ITA/4th place): "The result is very good in any case, even if more would have been possible today. I had some difficulties at the beginning of the season and then made improvements to the equipment in order to go back to skiing more fluidly again. Now everything fits better again and I'm back on track."

Beat Feuz (SUI/5th place): "Despite the mistakes, I'm in fifth place - that's not bad. With regard to the small crystal globe, the points today are very valuable, also because I make up some points on Matthias Mayer. Val Gardena/Gröden is always a difficult terrain for me personally because the course here doesn't exactly suit me."

Photos Saslong Classic Club

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