ASPEN, Colo. (AP) – Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany darted in between the shadows, daring to charge on a demanding course with little margin for error.
That go-for-broke mentality helped Rebensburg make up nearly a second on the final run to hold off Elisabeth Goergl of Austria to win a World Cup giant slalom on Saturday. It was Rebensburg’s fourth World Cup win in her career — all in this discipline.
Julia Mancuso finished third to become the first American to wind up on the podium at this venue since 2004. But another streak lives on: No U.S. skier has won in Aspen since Tamara McKinney nearly three decades ago.
Rebensburg blazed through the course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 11.25 seconds, edging Goergl, the leader after the first run, by 0.33 seconds.
“My heart was beating pretty (hard) when Liz came to the last pitch down there,” Rebensburg said. “I didn’t know if it was enough for me. I knew I had to push the limit. I really pushed.”
Her teammate, reigning overall World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, caught an edge on her final run, skidded off course and didn’t finish.
Lindsey Vonn, who was well back in 21st place after the first run, zoomed down the twisting and bumpy course to wind up 12th, 1.74 seconds behind Rebensburg.
Vonn’s confidence was soaring heading into this event, especially after winning the season-opening giant slalom race in Soelden, Austria, last month. But on a course that’s always given her trouble, Vonn held back on her first pass and was 2.12 seconds off the lead.
She picked up the tempo on her second run, but simply had too much ground to make up.
Vonn’s skiing has been limited after tweaking her back in training last week. She has been relying on massages and heating pads to keep her back loose.
“I’m trying to pretend like I feel OK,” Vonn said after her first run. “I was a little too nervous today. I just wasn’t really myself. Just never really found a good rhythm on the course.”
France’s Tessa Worley, the reigning champion at Aspen, failed to successfully navigate the course in the first run, as did Italy’s Federica Brignone, one of the favorites to wind up on the podium.
Lara Gut of Switzerland wound up fifth despite having the second-fastest time in the morning. Then again, that performance almost came as a surprise to her. Gut typically doesn’t fare well on the slopes in America.
“Normally, I’m always slow on this snow,” Gut said. “I like everything in the U.S., but I still have to make a relationship with the snow.”
Mancuso entered the Aspen event with a little bit of momentum after finishing 10th in Soelden.
And that was with her mind not fully wrapped around racing yet.
“Going into Soelden, I wasn’t quite prepared,” said Mancuso, who wore an ice blue ski suit with a map of her hometown of Squaw Valley, Calif., emblazoned on it. “I wasn’t in a racing mindset. I got together my racing game and now I’m more focused on the season.”
It certainly showed on her second run.
Like Rebensburg, Mancuso hardly let off the accelerator and powered down the hill.
Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. had a solid opening run, but missed qualifying for another run.
“I had a lot of fun, made some mistakes, had some good turns and overall had a good run,” said the 16-year-old Shiffrin, who’s competing in her first full season on the World Cup circuit.
“It’s always a disappointment to come down and know that you didn’t make second run. But at the same time I’m happy with many of the turns that I made and I just want to keep this good positive feeling going.”
For U.S. skier Resi Stiegler, this race was as much about vanquishing bad thoughts about the GS as qualifying for a second run.
In December 2007, Stiegler wiped out during the GS in Lienz, Austria. She caught an edge, went through the fencing, did a cartwheel and crashed into a stump, breaking her right leg, left arm and tearing all the ligaments in her right knee. Two years later, while training for the giant slalom at Copper Mountain, she tumbled again, slamming into the snow and breaking her left leg.
She swore off the giant slalom, but had a change of heart this season. She wound up 39th and didn’t make the field for a second run.
“I’m a little sad because I didn’t charge it as much as I could have and I think it would have been pretty easy to make the second run,” Stiegler said. “Just got to keep going for it.”
– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)