Cuche claims season’s first downhill

Swiss racer Didier Cuche got the defence of his alpine World Cup downhill title off to a successful start by clinching the first downhill of the season on Saturday.

Cuche claims season's first downhill
Christian Jansky (File)

The 37-year-old Cuche, who also won in Lake Louise two years ago, clocked one minute, 47.28 seconds to edge Swiss compatriot Beat Feuz who finished in 1:47.34. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt finished third in 1:47.36.

“I had to laugh when I saw the green light for me in the finish because I had trouble in both training runs so I was not on the list as one of the favourites,” Cuche said.

It marked the 18th career World Cup victory and 10th downhill win for the Swiss speed specialist Cuche, who at 37 years, three months holds the record as the oldest winner in history of a World Cup race.

Rising star Feuz’s only win on the World Cup circuit came in the downhill at Kvitfjell, Norway, last year. The 24-year-old also skied well in both training runs this week, finishing 10th in Friday’s final training run.

“He (Cuche) is a ski legend so to be behind him gives a sweeter taste to my second place finish,” Feuz said.

Starting from the 45th position Saturday, Reichelt skied his way into third place, bumping Austrian compatriot Romed Baumann off the podium.

Baumann finished fourth in 1:47.63 and Klaus Kröll was fifth in 1:47.75 as three Austrians placed in the top five.

“My training was going very good so I had a lot of confidence,” Reichelt said.

Cuche placed a disappointing 32nd in the final training run Friday, saying that strong winds pushed him off his track and resulted in him finishing more than two seconds back of the leader.

But Cuche was able to take advantage of a break in the weather on race day as a steady snowfall gave way to a brief period of sunshine as he started his charge down the course.

Cuche celebrated at the finish line with his signature move, kicking his right ski off and then catching it in mid-air.

“It was strange to win after those two training runs. I was lucky that I got good weather with no wind. Usually at Lake Louise you have to be lucky with the weather and today I was,” Cuche said.

After his poor results in the training runs, Cuche said he made some adjustments to his equipment.

“I made a lot of changes to my skis and boots to make them less aggressive,” he said.

Adrien Theaux, who was the fastest in Friday’s training, finished tied for sixth at 1:47.91. American Bode Miller was ninth with a time of 1:48.01. Last year’s World Cup overall champ Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished tied for 39th.

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IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

Hundreds of runners braved a lung-busting ascent into the Alps in Switzerland's Glacier 3000 Run on Saturday, albeit on a shortened course due to summer heatwaves melting the ice.

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

The event’s 14th edition was back without limitations after being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and run in 2021 with restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The race is normally run over 26.2 kilometres but was contested on a slightly modified 25.2km course this year due to the glacier melting, with the last pass over its surface shortened.

Runners make their way under a ski lift  on the glacier run in Switzerland

Runners make their way under a ski lift during the last kilometres of the Glacier 3000 run. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“The accelerated melting of the top layer of the glacier has created a camber and a soft layer which the runner sinks into,” said race director Oliver Hermann.

“Rather than intervening to flatten the track, we preferred to deviate the course.”

Runners on last stretch of Switzerland's glacier run

On the final stretch of this year’s shortened course. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

The finish line is 1,886 metres higher than the start, at nearly 3,000 metres up in the mountains by the Scex Rouge peak.

READ ALSO: Heatwaves close off classic Swiss and Italian Alpine hiking routes

The route begins in the jet-set ski resort town of Gstaad, at 1,050 metres above sea level.

It passes through forests, green mountain pastures before heading into rocky lunar-like landscapes and taking in the Tsanfleuron Glacier.

The course follows the Saane river upstream for 15 km before climbing up 1,800 metres over the remaining 10 km to the finish line — at an altitude of 2,936 metres.

A couple hold their hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets

A couple hold hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets, where the Glacier 3000 Run took place on August 6th. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Some 311 men and 98 women completed the individual course, while 50 two-person teams also took part.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

The first man to finish was Kenyan competitor Geoffrey Ndungu in two hours and 17 minutes. He had finished in second place last year.

He was followed by compatriot Abraham Ebenyo Ekwam in 2:21 and then Switzerland’s Jonathan Schmid in 2:23.

Victoria Kreuzer was the first woman to finish, in 2:46, ahead of Nicole Schindler and Pascale Rebsamen — a Swiss clean sweep.