The Wengen Sweep
The Head Racing Department did their homework in summer and autumn preparing for the 2017/2018 speed season with countless days of testing and training on glaciers in Europe and in South America. The search for the perfect setup is very complicated and it takes a lot of patience to find the right balance between ski, plate, binding, ski boot and the most important thing – the athlete. Every little change can have a serious impact. Before the start of the season, the service crew was still insecure as they knew there is always a big difference between training and racing.
The first Downhill race took place in Lake Louise and the start of the season could not have been any better with the whole podium filled with Rebel Beat Feuz winning ahead of Matthias Mayer and Aksel Lund Svindal. Everybody knew what Svindal was capable of, but some injuries in the past years left marks on the body of the Norwegian and he was forced to reduce training to a minimum for his knee to recover.
After the race in Canada confidence was back in the Race Department and they could hardly wait to travel to Colorado for the prestigious race on the “Birds of Prey” in Beaver Creek. This time it was Svindal winning the race ahead of Feuz.
Now the speed team knew they were on the right track. Back in Europe the Saslong in Val Gardena was next and Svindal again finished first with Kjetil Jansrud in second and the young Gilles Roulin from Switzerland in fourth.
After Gröden the difficult track of Bormio was back in the racing calendar and only little was missing for yet another victory but at the end it was Svindal second, Jansrud third and Feuz finishing fourth.
After Bormio ski racers are always looking forward traveling to Wengen because the backdrop of the Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch is something special. Preparations in the Swiss village were almost finished when a storm with more than 120 mph destroyed some to the infrastructure and the fencing on the famous “Hundschopf” just a few days before the first training. With a lot of hard work, the Swiss managed to fix the 4.480m long track. For the first training run the piste was still a little soft but after a few clear nights the track eventually got harder and better.
The test team of the Racing Department was up on the mountain early every morning and after countless runs they found one pair of skis that was a bit different from the others. In the past it has not been used, but the technician of Beat Feuz, Josef Kuppelwieser trusted this special pair and he just waited for the right conditions where it could show its true potential.
For the race on Saturday, Beat Feuz was in the difficult position to choose between number seven and number one. Usually it is better to start early in Wengen but with number one you are the test pilot without any information from the slope. With all his routine and confidence Beat Feuz went all-in taking the first bib with Josef Kuppelwieser’s special ski. After an almost perfect run nobody could beat Beat that day.
Teammate Svindal also had an excellent run with bib number three and after crossing the finish line and seeing his +0.18 difference he pointed to Feuz in admiration. Aksel was lucky touching the fence in the Brüggli-S leaving only blue marks on his helmet.
With number eleven Matthias Mayer pushed out of the startgate and after very good training runs this season he could not show his full potential yet. At the end he was +0.67 back and very happy with completing an all-Head podium in third position. “Feuz, Svindal and Mayer on the podium in Wengen; this does not happen every day, its one for the books!” Rainer Salzgeber commented after the triumph.
After the race the Head Rebel team packed their gear and moved to Austria as quickly as possible because the next highlight of the year is waiting – the Hahnenkammraces in Kitzbühel. The service and test teams are working in full strength to find the fastest skis again. After the race on the Streif, the focus will shift to the Olympic Games where a different track is waiting for the skiers. It will not be a brutal one but one with many turns and it will not be easy to win.