Ganong Conquers Stelvio to Finish Eighth in Bormio Downhill
On a dark, bumpy Stelvio downhill track in Bormio, Italy—the same track that he crashed on in Dec. 2017, sidelining him for the rest of the season and the PyeongChang Winter Olympics—Travis Ganong finished eighth on Friday to lead the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team.
Home soil has proven to be good for Italian Dominik Paris, who has now has four downhill victories in Bormio—a new record. Friday’s win was Dominik’s third-straight downhill win at the venue. The battle continues between Dominik and Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who was second by .39 seconds, while Austria’s Matthias Mayer was third, .42 seconds off Dominik’s pace.
This is Travis’ best finish at the venue since 2012, when he was seventh. Last season, Travis opted to sit out the Bormio season after crashing in a downhill training run on a surface that was among the gnarliest the men have seen—truly a vertical ice rink. The Stelvio track is regarded as one of the most technically challenging downhill tracks on the entire FIS Ski World Cup circuit. Travis, though, excels when it’s dark and bumpy. Take, for instance, his two World Cup victories—one in Santa Caterina, Italy in Dec. 2014, and the other in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany in 2017. Neither of these downhills were smooth-sailing by any means. They were real-deal, gnarly downhills.
"It's really nice to finally have another good result here in Bormio," Travis said. "This is where I had my first top-10, but also the two years ago I blew out my knee, and last year it was really bad luck with my ski popping off and I tore my LCL—it was just a grade two tear, so I was able to come back—but I hadn't had a finish here in two years. It had been a while, so it was amazing, today, to have some good feelings on the snow, have some confidence and just turn my brain off and ski."
The conditions at Bormio this year are much, well, tamer than last year. Or, as Travis said "very rippable this year, compared to last year." They watered the track pretty consistently all the way through, so it was an icier track than the men encountered in Val Gardena, Italy. There was a bit more cloud cover on Friday, which made visibility consistent and fair for the entire field. When the sun shines it will quite often cast shadows on certain sections of the course, making it difficult for the athletes to see and adjust.
"This hill really rewards people who don't worry about line, or whatever—they just focus on solid skiing and pushing on the ski and looking for speed. A lot of the tracks on the World Cup are more gliding focused and it's kind of like a drag race, but with this one, there are a lot of places where you can gain time or lose time. It really favors strong and good skiing, so there's not a lot of luck involved here, you have to earn every inch of this hill. Really excited to have another race tomorrow...but then also looking forward to going home after this and having a little break in Tahoe before the second half of the season kicks off."
Ryan Cochran-Siegle landed in 11th place, 1.65 seconds off the leader. With this top-15, he continues his consistency streak, having scored points in nine out of the last 10 races, across four disciplines. Ryan, who scored a career-best sixth place at the last downhill in Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, Colo., will look to bring what he learned from today into tomorrow’s downhill. In the first and only training run on Thursday, Ryan lost a ski, put it back on, and finished his run. That said, Friday’s rescheduled downhill from Val Gardena, was his first full-go at the Stelvio.
"When I got down to the mid-section before [head coach] Randy [Pelkey] going into the traverse, I just came into a section a little hot and rather than trying to settle my speed, I went into it aggressively, hit some chop and eventually my ski popped off and I twisted around and went into the fence a little," Ryan reflected on Thursday's training run. "Overall, a pretty easy crash in terms of what it could be."
Ryan took what he learned on Thursday into Friday's downhill race. "I know there are certain sections I skied differently today than yesterday," he said. "Knowing that my ski came off in the training run, I was working to be in a better position. I can definitely ski better in certain sections and bring a little bit more of a race mentality, charging a little more, into tomorrow. The biggest thing to learn from today is to trust the skiing and also try to fight more to get the ski going early and skiing powerfully and clean through all the chop. This is my second-best downhill result, so I'm definitely thrilled with my solid skiing, but I know to continue to get better it's going to take aggressive approaches day in and day out on the World Cup, so trying to take that more intense mindset into the start." Needless to say, he's happy to with the result, and he's looking forward to tomorrow.
Steven Nyman rounded out the American male finishers landing in the top-30, finishing 24th, 2.65 seconds out. The margin between the fastest guy and 30th place was a whopping 3.05 seconds—a rarity in speed events, especially men’s downhill. Thomas Biesemeyer, Bryce Bennett, Jared Goldberg and Wiley Maple also started, but did not finish in the points. Sam started but DNFed.
Ryan also had props for his teammates, "The past two years Travis has had one minor and one major injury here. He skied really solid, so for him to come down and put that behind him, ski with a racer's mentality and end up with a top-10 is really impressive. Obviously Bryce [Bennett] and Steven want more, and I think if they go into the video room and figure out where to trim some time, they can. Last year Bryce was really competitive here, so we know he can turn things around. Jared, BZ [Tommy Biesemeyer], Moose [Sam Morse] and Wiley all have the ability to ski fast too." Now the men just need to adjust their approach for tomorrow in order to find that speed.
Up next for the men is another downhill on Saturday, followed by the first alpine combined of the season on Sunday.
Official event hashtags: #bormioskiworldcup
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Sunday, Dec. 29
4:30 a.m. - Men’s alpine combined super-G, Bormio, ITA - Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. - Men’s alpine combined slalom, Bormio, ITA - Olympic Channel, Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
Note: All televised events to stream across NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA app
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow