WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — The rivalry between Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Marco Odermatt emerged again Friday in a World Cup downhill.
Kilde edged Odermatt by 0.19 seconds to win one day after his Swiss friend had won a super-G in another duel on the storied Lauberhorn hill. They have now combined to win 11 of 19 men’s World Cup events this season.
“Many times we took revenge on each other and that’s fun,” said Odermatt, who like Kilde aims to win a first major championship medal at the Beijing Olympics next month. “He’s a great guy, we’re good friends.”
Beat Feuz was third Friday, 0.30 behind the Norwegian winner, while seeking a record fourth win in his home country’s signature race.
Kilde’s second downhill win of the season was the fifth of his career and first at one of the historic back-to-back race venues in January — the Lauberhorn at Wengen, and Hahnenkamm at Kitzbühel, Austria.
“It’s always been a big goal to win the big classics,” Kilde said. “It’s been a dream day.”
It earned him 100 points and lifted him to the top of the season-long downhill standings. Still, the 2020 overall World Cup champion barely cut the gap on Odermatt in the overall standings.
Odermatt has six race wins compared to Kilde’s five yet his relentlessly consistent results have built an overall lead of nearly 400 points.
A runner-up finish in Odermatt’s first-ever downhill in Wengen was even more impressive for being faster than Feuz, his favored teammate and a four-time defending World Cup downhill champion.
“He taught me how to (race) here,” Odermatt said of Feuz, who at 34 is 10 years older. “Yeah, he’s a big, big help for me in downhill.”
Both Odermatt and Kilde agreed Feuz will start favorite on Saturday over the full Lauberhorn distance of 4.4 kilometers (2.7 miles) — easily the longest on the World Cup circuit. They went on the shorter 2.95-kilometer (1.8-mile) course Friday that is typically used in the Alpine combined event which was dropped from the calendar this season.
“It’s going to be a challenge tomorrow,” Kilde acknowledged. “I know that Beat is strong from the top to the bottom.”
The hard-packed snow and bright sunshine on a cold day ensured fast racing with Bryce Bennett hitting a top speed above 151 kph (93 mph) in his seventh-place run, 0.95 behind.
The American’s peak speed came on the Hanneggschuss straight where in 2013 the World Cup record of 161.9 kph (100.6 mph) was set by Johan Clarey. Now 41, the Frenchman placed 14th on Friday.
The fast snow saw some racers opt for unusual tactics to cut their speed on the narrow Alpweg section to prepare for a tight, slow S-shaped series of turns.
World champion Vincent Kriechmayr slowed down by briefly pointing his skis inwards, like the pizza-slice shape taught to novice skiers. The Austrian placed 12th, trailing Kilde by 1.26.
Kriechmayr’s participation was controversial with the Swiss team leading vocal protests to the International Ski Federation because he did not complete one of the midweek training runs that are usually mandatory to enter a downhill.
After testing positive for COVID-19 and serving a quarantine period ordered by Austrian authorities, Kriechmayr only arrived in Wengen late Wednesday after the training runs, though in time for the super-G race. He won the Lauberhorn race in 2019 and will also start Saturday.
Carlo Janka, the Lauberhorn winner and overall World Cup champion in 2010, was 11th Friday and will end his career Saturday racing in front of his home fans for the last time.