There are times in World Cup ski racing when nature deals the cards. When these days happen, racers have to grab the opportunity with both hands. This is what Stephan Keppler did with both hands. Fate deals you a hand in terms of a start number and you have to do the best that you can with it. In Val Gardena / Groeden, Keppler skied “a really good run,” he felt when being interviewed after the race. While the day started off clear, the light soon came in and this affected some of the better fancied racers. After two days of downhill training and the slightly different line, the terrain reacted differently for some but the main factor in determining the fast times was the wind at the top of the course.
Keppler is part of a small German Men’s team and he felt that in ways this played to his advantage. Keppler started number 7 and conditions were better for him than for some of the later runners and it was this opportunity that Keppler exploited to the maximum effect. Indeed for a time it looked like he might even hold on for a famous victory before Michael Walchhofer used every ounce of his experience to capture his 19th career World Cup win and fourth in Val Gardena.
You can only ski what is in front of you and by the time that Keppler had negotiated his way through the fog and the light falling of snow, a number of highly acclaimed racers had been put to shame by the German, including a resurgent Benni Raich. There is an old saying that says “to be first, first you have to finish” and while many of the more fancied racers in Super G this season came to grief, Stephan Keppler gave the German Men’s Team some much needed cheer in the run up to the festive period by grabbing second place through the mist.
Keppler was very honest when asked how he had done and admitted that he had “used the conditions to the best of his ability” to secure a great moral boosting podium and keeping up the great record of HEAD racers in the speed events this winter season.
Werner Heel produced his best performance of the season so far to grab 7th while Didier Cuche performed his customary ski flip in the finish but had to be content with 11th spot: Having won the last training run for the Downhill, Didier will be hoping for better things in the Downhill.
1. Michael Walchhofer (AUT)
2. Stephan Keppler (GER) HEAD
3. Eric Guay (CAN)
7 Werner Heel (ITA) HEAD
11 Didier Cuche (SUI) HEAD
16 Bode Miller (USA) HEAD
23 Johan Clarey (FRA) HEAD
24 Patrick Staudacher (ITA) HEAD
29 Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) HEAD