WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — The dominant men’s downhill racer is Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — clearly.
Kilde won Switzerland’s marquee World Cup race Saturday by a big margin for his fourth win in six downhills this season.
“It’s flowing pretty well now, it’s really a lot of fun. I feel so happy skiing,” Kilde told Swiss broadcaster RTS.
That Kilde won with Swiss standout Marco Odermatt second was less of a surprise than the gap between them on a shortened version of the storied Lauberhorn course — 0.88 seconds.
“It’s super with the second place but the time was really too much,” said Odermatt, who shook his head on crossing the finish line. The defending overall World Cup champion has six career runner-up finishes in downhill but has never won.
Odermatt was the only racer within a second of Kilde, and Mattia Casse was 1.01 back in third. The 32-year-old Italian matched his career-best result of third last month at Val Gardena, Italy, that Kilde also won.
In his last race at Wengen before retiring, three-time Lauberhorn winner Beat Feuz was never in contention placing fifth, 1.25 behind Kilde. Olympic downhill champion Feuz will stop after the two downhills next weekend at Kitzbühel, Austria, where he is a multiple winner on the Streif slope that is mythic in ski lore.
Kilde also won the super-G race Friday, yet it was another strong day for Switzerland. Five Swiss racers placed in the top 10 — including a surprise run from Wengen downhill debutant Alexis Monney — after seven were top-15 finishers in super-G.
The Norwegian star’s 19th career World Cup win was his 10th in downhill. His 100 race points extended the lead over Odermatt in the season-long discipline standings to 119.
Kilde, the 2020 overall World Cup champion, is only slowly closing the gap on Odermatt’s lead for the giant crystal globe. Odermatt leads by 340.
It’s a rivalry of friends set to run for the rest of the season including the biennial world championships next month in the French resorts of Courchevel and Meribel.
“We’re great competitors but we’re also great friends,” Kilde said. “It’s important to look at the sport in a way that’s also humble and you can be respectful.”
The 93rd edition of the Alpine nation’s signature winter sports event started lower down the mountain because of strong winds in the top section.
The longest course on the World Cup circuit, at 4.3 kilometers (2 2/3 miles), instead was raced from the super-G start just above the steep Hundschopf jump. It meant Kilde’s winning time Saturday of 1 minute, 43 seconds was almost five seconds less than in super-G on Friday.
Racers were still launched almost 40 meters (yards) off the jump and Odermatt crucially lost speed wobbling on his landing.
“The light was very, very bad. It was difficult to see the snow,” he said of the overcast conditions.
Racers were slowed to about 75 kph (47 mph) going through the S-shaped section mid-race and gained speed again to clock 145 kph (90 mph) in the fastest straight known as Hanneggschuss.
In the 2013 Lauberhorn race, a World Cup speed record of 162 kph (100.6 mph) was set by Johan Clarey of France. The course has since been curbed to control racers’ speed.
Odermatt was happy for a shorter race Saturday with intense days ahead at the season’s most anticipated and lucrative venue.
“It’s a little bit less for the legs,” he acknowledged. “If you look forward to the next weeks they will be tough, and Kitzbühel is well known as one of my favorites.”
Odermatt and Kilde will skip a slalom Sunday that completes the Wengen program.
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