Luitz stuns Hirscher for first World Cup win at Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — Upset city, kids.
Germany’s Stefan Luitz won the Marcel Hirscher Invitational, aka the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup giant slalom, by stunning the aforementioned Austrian in the final run of the day.
Luitz held on to his first-run advantage of 15-hunderedths of second to win in a cumulative time of 2 minutes, 36.38, just 14-hundredths ahead of Hirscher, who had to settle for second. Switzerland’s Thomas Tumler was third in 2:36.89.
That’s Luitz’s first World Cup win and Tumler’s first podium on the white circus.
“I’m feeling really, really good,” Luitz said. “To come back after this injury, and win the first (giant-slalom) race is unbelievable. My body is feeling really good, and I’m really happy about that.”
He should be. The Swiss racer tore his right ACL in 2013, and took the long road back. He seemed to be on track with a third-pace finish in last year’s Birds of Prey GS. The next week, he established his best finish until Sunday, Dec. 2, with a second-place finish in Val d’Isere, France.
And then he tore his left ACL.
“I think Stefan has maybe had one of the hardest roads to the first victory in the World Cup,” Hirscher said graciously. “So many injuries.”
Good work, Dad
As noted, Luitz has been on the podium here, but defeating Hirscher after all of his injuries made for the perfect scenario.
And give it up for Dad. He’s Luitz’s ski tech.
“He gave me some fast skis,” Luitz said to laughter during the post-race news conference. “We’ve been working together so long that he knows what I need.”
Both Luitz and Hirscher had mistakes on their second runs. With a turn-filled second course-set, the afternoon runs were five seconds slower than the first. But Luitz had an interesting philosophy for his last trip down the hill.
“When you try to win a race, when Marcel has gone in front of you, you push,” he said. “When you don’t have mistakes in the run, you’re not fast.”
Luitz fell behind Hirscher’s pace on Red Tail, but summoned the final bit of speed for his storybook win.
“Marcel is the best skier in the world,” Luitz said. “It’s unbelievable to be faster than him in both runs. Thank you to Marcel for the kind words.”
Points in his pocket
Were it not for Luitz’s trials and travails in winning his first World Cup, Hirscher not winning a technical race would likely have been the headline.
When asked if it’s helpful to have young talent in the field to push him this season, he joked, “It helps me. It also helps me to have seven of these crazy things at home.”
Those seven crazy things at home are the crystal globes for his record seven straight overall World Cup championships. Given that the men have had four speed races and just two tech events to date — Hirscher only competes in GS, slalom and combined — the Austrian is doing just fine in his pursuit of No. 8.
Hirscher leaves the North American swing in fifth place with 180 points with Austrian Max Franz in the lead (238).
“There were two close calls definitely, so I’m super-happy to be flying back with 80 points in my pocket,” Hirscher said.
The next stop on the tour is a GS and a slalom, more opportunities for Hirscher, in Val d’Isere, France, next weekend.
Tumler’s roommate this week in Beaver Creek was Mauro Caviezel, who finished second during the downhill and super-G. And Tumler saw the awards his roommate was getting.
“Mauro is my roommate, and I saw this picture of [the bird of prey],” Tumler said. “I said, ‘I want this picture.’ Now I have one.”
Hang it wherever you want, kid.
Tumler had a good day on Sunday even before it became a great one.
Wearing bib No. 48, making the flip was an accomplishment.
Running 10th in the afternoon run, Tumler ended up in first place, and went to the hot seat to sit dutifully until lots of people theoretically passed him.
It turned out that Tumler had turned out the fastest run of the second heat, and he kept his seat for quite a while.
“At first, I was thinking it would be good to be 15th,” he said. “Then as the guys were coming down, I saw the course was slowing a bit, so I started thinking about top 5.”
How about the podium? And his Tumler’s third-place pace finish was indeed his first podium. His previous best was eighth in a St. Moritz, Switzerland, super-G on March 17, 2016.
“It’s amazing. I can’t describe my feelings,” Tumler said. “To be on the podium with Marcel, the best [racer] of GS the last five years, it’s amazing.”