America's Stephen Nyman (Sundance, Utah) got the best of what could only be described as a course in Val Gardena, Italy marked by extreme conditions. He won his third career World Cup downhill on the famous Saslong course by a .31 second margin over World Cup downhill leader Kjetil Jansrudof Norway.
"I've always felt comfortable here from the first day I arrived in 2005. It was like, I like this hill," Nyman said. "Growing up in the western U.S., we do a lot of terrain camps when we're younger and learn how to work the terrain and do the jumps and double jumps. So I'm comfortable with that." His podium performance on the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey was fresh in his memory.
The snow cover on the Saslong was sparse and was surrounded by greenery. It remained true to its reputation as one of the most demanding and challenging courses on the tour.
The course is known for three critical parts -- all the more critical Friday because of the snow cover. The Camel Hump (a jump over a jump) sent racers flying, while the technical, bumpy Ciaslat section tested racers' off-season conditioning. Those who did finish were relieved indeed.
Nyman was flawless over the Camel Hump and strong in the Ciaslat and easily racing to the finish. His time was 1 minute, 55:89. Jansrud said, "hats off to Steven today." Italian Dominik Paris was third, 1.15 seconds back. The only other American to finish was Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, Calif.), in 13th.
The men race a super G Saturday before moving over to Alta Badia for a giant slalom Sunday and then to Madonna di Compiglio for a slalom Monday before the Christmas break. The women race downhill Saturday and super G Sunday at Val d'Isere, France.
Photo: Steven Nyman wins at Val Gardena for the third time (Steven Nyman/Facebook)