It was a great sporting festival
The 80th Hahnenkamm Races, the highlight of the World Cup season, are now over. Over 86,000 spectators on site and millions of TV viewers were in attendance - in Kitzbühel - where future legends were born, where the best of the best won. Fans were also able to follow the races at all times on social media channels. It wasn't three race days - it was a whole sporting week that will remain etched in our hearts. This is only the success it is, because race Organizers, Kitzbühel Ski Club, together with with its officals and employees, have put heart and soul into this sporting festival ever since 1931.
The people that contribute to this success.
1500 people - are at the heart of the machinery that keeps the cogs moving. Only few are visible on the outside, but deep inside this machine are countless smaller components that are necessary to make the “Hahnenkamm” clock tick.
1500 people in total are directly or indirectly involved in the Hahnenkamm Races. Of these, 300 belong to the Organizing Committee. The Hahnenkamm magic can be felt very clearly. All those who have ever contributed to ensuring Race Week runs as it should, are proud of their efforts and always want to return. Individual teams are trained up and ultimately everyone pulls together. Many things would not be possible without the commitment of all these people. They all deserve the highest recognition.
When does work for the races start?
The last day of the races is the first day of the next races. But even that's not really true, because there are also projects that require much more long-term planning. After analysing individual working groups, implementation follows. Work intensity increased from September and grew steadily until the races. The slopes were mowed in October, nets were prepared and installed, and material checked. The technicians began their work. All infrastructure was coordinated down to the smallest detail. The KitzSki Team from Bergbahn AG Cable Car Co. commenced snow-making operations in November, for which every cold spell was utilised. Slope grooming then followed in mid-December, after close consultations with the HKR Team; the Slope Team took the racecourses over from 7th January and finalized preparations.
Invisible, yet imperative
Everyone talks about the Slope Team. However, there are other working groups that achieve great things, but are simply overlooked.
The offices were set up on Friday of the previous week. Around 40 PCs and laptops were installed. In addition, TV-compatible technology was installed in the press room and team captains' meeting room. Assembly of the furniture and partition walls (exhibition stand construction) had begun four days earlier. Carpets to protect the floor, power connections at every table, telephones, Wi-Fi, etc. all had to be taken into account. Around 1,000 electric sockets in total were installed. The race, lodging, press and organization offices were housed in K3. The ticket office was “re-accommodated” and housed for the first time in the so-called "villa" near the KSC infrastructure site, on the first floor, where a fan shop run by Kitzsport also opened for the first time. All in all, there was an incredible flurry of activity, not visible to outsiders. These departments also provide an important base and are fundamental to the success of the races.
Official opening with Parade of Nations
The 80th Hahnenkamm Races were ceremonially opened on Tuesday, 21st January. Kitzbühel was more than ready for the biggest and most exciting ski event of the year. The procesion of tomorrow's ski stars into Legend Park was duly celebrated. KSC sports director, Josef Eberl, looked after the athletes in the "Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions" race with great diligence.
After the Parade of Nations, the teams were asked to step onto the stage, where start numbers were drawn. Happy faces, full of anticipation for the next day's race, excited parents and relatives, members of the Slope Team as well as invited guests of honour, officials and spectators watched the opening with delight.
After words of welcome by the officials, ÖSV youth representative, Christian Greber, President of Kitzbühel Tourism Signe Reisch, Chairman of the Cable Car Co., Josef Burger, as well as a representative of the municipality, Councillor Andrea Walzl, Chairman of the Hahnenkamm Races Organizing Committee, Michael Huber officially opened the Race Week: “I hereby declare the 80th Hahnenkamm Races officially open!”
The first Team Captains Meeting of the Hahnenkamm Races then took place at 20 hrs. During this meeting, the tension of the coaches, excitement of the service people and HKR working teams was palpable - after all, everyone wants to do everything right. At the same time, however, it was a joyful reunion of the ski family.
A big day - the first downhill training run and the next generation
On Wednesday 22nd January, the 80th Hahnenkamm Races started with the Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions Race and the first Hahnenkamm Downhill training. The start of the Hahnenkamm Week could not have been better. Ideal weather over Kitzbühel, fantastic slope conditions: optimum prerequisites to commence these sport-filled days.
The first run of the Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions Race started at 10 hrs. The demanding Giant Slalom posed a real challenge for the young athletes and took them to their absolute limits. After the second thrilling Slalom run, Team Tirol with Natalie Falch, Leonie Raich, Elisabeth Graupp-Riegler, Tobias Pittracher, Fabian Geisler and Simon Wachter took the winner’s podium with an overall time of 5:00.38. The Tiroleans were thrilled about this unique experience and delighted with their win. The podium was completed by Team Austria 2 in second place and Team Austria 1 in third. The golden trophy was sponsored by the Kitzbühel branch of Sparkasse Bank. The six members of the winning team also each received a valuable watch from Longines. Teams from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia also took part.
The first Downhill training session took place between the two heats of the Longines Future Hahnenkamm Champions Race. Downhill world champion, Kjetil Jansrud, finished 0.04 seconds ahead of American Jared Goldberg and 0.20 seconds ahead of Frenchman, Johan Clarey. After 40 racers crossed the finish line, Austria’s best placement was Matthias Mayer in sixth place, followed by Vincent Kriechmayr in ninth. The Austrians were reserved during the first practice session, not wanting to reveal their cards. Mayer said at the finish: "It was a lot of fun today. I'm happy with myself because it was a pretty good run."
Clarey is fastest, Mayer is third
Fantastic weather, excellent atmosphere - the Streif was in fine form on Thursday during the final Downhill training. In addition to free admission, spectators had free access to the grandstand and could enjoy a wonderful view of the Hausbergkannte section of the racecourse and final approach to the finish line. Around 5000 spectators created an exuberant atmosphere for the athletes at the start and finish areas, applauding each athlete, rejoicing in every run and just having a great time. Training was broadcast live. This was a dress rehearsal not only for the athletes, but also for the ORF Austrian Broadcasting Company. Frenchman John Clarey crossed the finish line with best time. He was 0.55 seconds faster than Norwegian Aleksander Kilde. Hahne Matthias Mayer from Carinthia came third, only 0.60 seconds behind. There were a few scary moments on the Hausberg Traverse. Wearing bib number 19, Vincent Kriechmayr from Upper Austria crashed and landed in the safety net, hurting his right hand in the process. “It was already hurt after my fall in Lake Louise, but it’s not that bad,” he bravely announced during an interview at the finish. Thomas Dressen, winner of 2018, was disappointed. The edge of his ski was apparently damaged. “I just couldn’t get any grip. I slipped away at the Karussellkurve section and the Steilhang was a real battle". Daniel Dankelmaier, the likeable European Cup winner last year at Hahnenkamm, finished a very respectable 13th in training; Pepi Ferstl was 1.96 seconds behind, finishing 22nd. At this point, it was unclear whether he was playing a gamble, or actually did have a bad run.
There were two big surprises at the subsequent Team Captains Meeting at 17 hrs. One was a video message from the injured South Tyrolean Dominik Paris: "I wish all athletes all the best for the races. My operation went well and I am already looking forward to next year. The other, was an announcement by long-time Race Secretary, Peter Eder, that he would be retiring from his position. After an incredible 36 years, he handed his office over to Alexander Katholnig.
Pressure eased for the Organizing Committee on this particular day, so everybody could look forward to the upcoming race days in a relaxed manner.
A thrilling day - the Super G on difficult terrain
The Super G course was flagged out the day before by French coach Erik Seletto and everyone loved it. FIS Chief Race Director Markus Waldner enthused: "He managed that very well. The difficult Querfahrt section and finish slope in particular are really good". Hannes Trinkl, FIS Race Director, remarked that after the generous Super G start slope he liked the integration of the big "S", in the Downhill course. “That takes experience and a good eye. Seletto did a good job there!"
18,000 fans came and cheered. They got to see an exciting Super G, one of the finest of its kind. Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud won with a time of 1:14.61. Second place was shared by Aamodt A. Kilde from Norway with Matthias Mayer from Austria’s Carinthia, who delivered a tie finish, 16/100 seconds behind the winner. It was Jansrud’s 23rd World Cup triumph, his second in Kitzbühel. Five years ago, he took the Hahnenkamm Downhill title.
“This is really lovely. I was stable from top to bottom today”. But Kjetil’s victory was deserved. “I had a feeling that he will win today," said Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who finished second.
“I really enjoyed it. It is incredible. Somehow, everybody expects to get on the podium, everybody is hoping for victory, it's just cool to cross the finish line with a green light. Maybe I didn't get it quite right at the Hausberg section, I could have pushed it more there. But all in all, it was a great ride,” said Olympic champion Mayer, who was very satisfied with his performance.
At the following press conference, winner Jansrud summed up the Super-G in his own words. “This is the best thing for the team. As Aleksander led equally with Matthias Mayer, I shared in his delight at the start line and celebrated with him, because it is simply a great Norwegian and Austrian result.“ And then Kjetil Jansrud started the race. ”I had to concentrate again, focus on my run for a moment.“ And he was fast. The fastest. “Of course it’s great. Kitzbühel is like a drug – if you win once, you want to experience it over and over again. And sharing the podium with your teammate is the second best feeling.“
A second silver “Gams” trophy had to be quickly organised between the race and prize-giving ceremony. Restorer and artist Johannes Schroll consulted with the Organizing Committee during the race and immediately began with the production of a silver chamois made of acrylic glass. He then popped the trophy in a backpack, jumped on the train from Kirchberg to Kitzbühel at 17.30 and brought it directly to the finish line. The prize giving ceremony could commence. By this time, thousands of spectators were already on their way back to the finish area.
Start numbers for the Downhill were drawn at 18.00 hrs and were presented by young members of the KSC. Afterwards, the highlights of the day and winning run were screened on the large video walls, before the winners were honoured. The atmosphere was impressive and the smiling winner Jansrud was speechless. He was also delighted about the second place of his teammate Kilde, who carried Mayer by "piggyback" to the award ceremony.
The prizes from 1st to 5th place were awarded by HKR Chief, Michael Huber, Arno Schuchter (Chief Sales and Marketing Officer) and President of Tourism Signe Reisch, who presented the prize of honour from Kitzbühel Tourism. The evening came to a lively close, athletes and fans were exuberant and already looking forward to the fast-approaching Hahnenkamm Downhill.
Mayer triumphant on the Hahnenkamm - the Downhill belongs to Austria
A dream in red-white-red, Matthias Mayer triumphed with a winning time of 1:55.59. No Austrian has made it to the top step of the podium at the Downhill for six years. It was an incredibly moving moment. Vincent Kriechmayr and Beat Feuz, both 22/100 seconds behind "Mothl" Mayer, shared second place.
Wearing start number 13, Mayer delivered a nigh-on perfect run, while Feuz lost time at the Steilhang and Kriechmayr at the Hausberg section. "There is simply nothing more awesome than to weave down the racecourse alongside thousands of spectators and be in the lead again. It is unbelievable and I’m just so happy." His best previous result was eighth. Kriechmayr was satisfied with his run. “I lost a little time in the Steilhang section" Feuz commented about his performance. He then pulled out all the stops at the Hausberg. "I copied this line from Dominik Paris." Frenchman Johan Clarey, who was able to impress with the fastest time in the final training run on Thursday, missed a podium position by a mere five hundredths of a second. His fellow countryman Maxence Muzaton achieved a strong fifth place, followed by Super-G winner Kjetil Jansrud in sixth place.
The streets were empty during the Hahnenkamm Downhill. Josef-Herold-Strasse and the Hahnenkammstrasse were almost deserted, you could count the number of pedestrians on one hand. Instead, 50,000 fans were at the event area and many millions were watching the season highlight of the World Cup in front of their TV screens. The party mood spilled out onto the streets after the race, in a festival of Olympic proportions and a wonderfully eclectic mix of all nations, embracing the joy of the moment. The heroes of the Streif were celebrated in the town centre, before everyone flocked back again to the evening award ceremony. The spine-tingling atmosphere at the prize-giving ceremony with the national anthem ringing in everyone’s ears was simply unforgettable.
Prizes were handed over by Martin Sander, AUDI Sales Director Europe, Josef Burger, Chairman of the Cable Car Co., and Michael Huber, Chief of the HKR. By the way, the Cable Car Co. donated the trophy for the very first HKR in 1931.
Incidentally: when it turned out that there will be ex aequo placements again, trophy manufacturer Johannes Schroll, who was amongst the crowds watching the race, realised what he needed to do and jumped on the train to travel back to his workshop in Kirchberg. Schroll called the Organizers at 16 hrs and said: “The trophy still has to dry, but hopefully we will make it in time for the award ceremony!” He caught the crowded fan shuttle train back and managed to bring the trophy to the finish line just in time.
Peter Fill bows out
After the winners' press conference in the Press Centre, South Tyrolean Peter Fill made an announcement. The 2006 Hahnenkamm Downhill winner lost a ski during his last appearance on the Streif and was unable to finish the race. "Ciao Amore" was played by the Kastelruther Spatzen as a farewell song; countless fans were so moved, they had tears in their eyes. "I have many memories, but victory on the Streif will always remain the most beautiful", said the man from Kastelruth. Fill stood on the World Cup podium no less than 24 times, became Vice World Champion in Val d'Isere (France) in 2009 and won bronze in 2011 in the Super Combined in Garmisch. He won the World Cup Downhill Discipline twice (2015/2016, 2016/2017) and took the World Cup Combined Discipline title in 2017/2018. He has collected no less than 106 top-ten rankings in the World Cup, four of them at Olympic Games and five at World Championships.
Thriller on the Ganslern Slope and a Swiss victory
A proverbial Slalom thriller ended on Sunday with Swiss triumph: Daniel Yule won in front of a crowd of 18,000 spectators on the Ganslern Slope and secured his golden trophy in Kitzbühel. Two years ago, the technique-ace stood on the podium in third place – today, the 26-year-old emerged victorious.
"To win here, at the iconic Hahnenkamm, is simply unbelievable. I am incredibly proud," said Yule after his triumph. With Kitzbühel gold in his back pocket, the Swiss racer moves up to second place in the Slalom World Cup rankings, after charging three victories to his account this season. Marco Schwarz bagged the silver trophy. The Austrian performed a strong second run and made it onto the podium after fourth place in this morning’s first run. “It’s indescribable. I went into full attack mode and am very happy about my second place.”
Last year’s winner Clement Noel (FRA) also managed to return to the rostrum: he improved by six places after the first morning heat, thanks to his spirited second run.
Fourth place was taken by two Norwegians: two-time Kitzbühel champion Henrik Kristoffersen and Lucas Braathen. The young racer took the half-time lead after a sensational first run with the late start number 33, and performed formidably in his second run. Fourth place represents his biggest World Cup success to date.
Hot on the heels of Michael Matt (Austria) and Giuliano Razzoli (Italy), Adrian Pertl caused another surprise: the Austrian moved up an incredible 16 places in the second round. I have never been in the top 30 before, and now this! My family was here, my girlfriend and of course the thousands of spectators. That motivated me. Everything just fell into place in the second run”, the 23-year-old commented happily.
Swiss Ski, the Swiss Ski Federation, had great reason to celebrate. Since Dumeng Giovanoli's victory in 1968, no Swiss skier has made it to the top of the podium on the Ganslern Slope. Yule has now brought an end to this lengthy dry spell: “As a Swiss athlete, this success is simply amazing. I wasn’t even a twinkle in my father’s eye when the last Swiss athlete won here. Hopefully I get to experience this feeling many times again." He already won bronze on the Ganslern Slope in Kitzbühel in 2018. This is his third win of the season. He accepted the golden “Gams” trophy made from Hahnenkamm stone from Mayor Klaus Winkler, as well as congratulations from A1 CEO Marcus Grausam (Hahnenkamm Slalom sponsor) and Michael Huber.
The award ceremony took place immediately after the race in the finish area. As Slalom winner, Yule can look forward to a record prize money of 100,000 euros. Runner up Schwarz, still gets a whopping Euro 50,000 and third placed Noel, Euro 25,000. And with that, the 80th Hahnenkamm Races came to an end. The Austrian team had much reason to celebrate - to the delight of the home fans: They secured no less than five podium finishes, in the Super-G, Downhill and Slalom.