Wengen, Switzerland is one of the most iconic and classic downhill races on the Men’s FIS World Cup circuit. Known as the Lauberhorn, the downhill track in Wengen is the longest on the tour with a length of 2.65 miles (4.27km). When the full course is run, times safely cross the two-and-a-half minute mark. Most of the other Men’s downhills are around two miles long, which adds a significant challenge to the Lauberhorn track. The Lauberhorn is also the fastest downhill track, with speeds nearing 100mph (160km/h). This year’s editions of the Wengen Downhills were held on January 14th and 15th.
The first of two Downhills in Wengen was held on an adjusted track, as two back-to-back downhills down the full Lauberhorn would be unfeasible with respect to the athlete’s ability to recover from the massive effort. Johan Clarey from France was the first to tackle the abridged Lauberhorn with the start placed slightly above the iconic Hundschopf jump, which sends racers 131 feet alongside a huge slab of rock. Clarey ran a smooth and aggressive effort and set the initial time to beat of 1:43.78, over 30 seconds faster than the last winning run on the full Lauberhorn track in 2019. Clarey’s time was quickly beaten by the next athlete, Austrian Daniel Hemetsberger, who bettered the Frenchman by nearly one second.
The Wengen Downhills are a massive ‘homecoming’ event for the Swiss Ski Team who had their first attempt on the Lauberhorn through Beat Fuez, starting third. Fuez had a pair of bronze medals from previous downhills in Lake Louise, Canada, and Beaver Creek, the USA going into his home Downhill and was searching for his first World Cup win of the season. The 34-year-old from a small town near Bern, Switzerland, won in Wengen in 2012, 2018 & 2020 and put his experience on display. Fuez was exceptionally strong through the incredibly tight Kernen-S section of the track, which typically forces Downhill athletes to decelerate in order to avoid the netting. To the delight of the Swiss crowd, the 2017 World Champion put himself into the hot seat, bettering Hemetsberger by 0.16s.
Fuez’s time held up against downhill legends including Matthias Mayer from Austria and the winner of the previous downhill in Bormio, Italy’s Dominik Paris. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde from Norway was bib 11 for Friday’s downhill and had to settle for runner-up in the previous day’s Super-G race. The attacking viking from Baerum, Norway was on a mission from the start gate. Kilde continuously gained on Beat Fuez throughout the track and posted a speed of 149.38km/h (92.8mph) through the speed trap. The 2020 Overall World Cup winner took the lead from Fuez with a time of 1:42.42. Kilde’s time wouldn’t be beat, and he would take his 11th World Cup victory. Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, who was the only skier to beat Kilde in the Super G, came down two athletes after the Norwegian. The 24-year-old, who currently leads the Overall Crystal Globe Rankings, has yet to win a World Cup Downhill. Odermatt skied a strong run and used his strong technical skills to split the gap between Aleksander Kilde and his Swiss teammate Beat Fuez. None of the 37 athletes left to run would be able to crack the times of these top three, and Switzerland would enjoy a double podium at the first of their iconic home speed races. The US Ski Team’s Bryce Bennett and Ryan Cochran-Siegle also cracked the top ten, finishing in 7th and 8th respectively.
January 15th would challenge the fastest athletes in the world to the full gauntlet of the Lauberhorn track. The previous day’s downhill start was situated at approximately the 35-second mark of Saturday’s track, and the skiers carried much more speed into the Hundschopf jump. Beat Fuez was again the third athlete down the track and continued to capitalize on his experience in Wengen. The downhill veteran would gain a place on his previous performance and finish the day in second.
2021 Super-G and Downhill World Champion Vincent Kriechmayr from Austria was the 7th athlete to tackle the Lauberhorn. Kriechmayr had finished 12th in the shorter downhill but had already landed on podiums in Lake Louise, Val Gardena & Bormio this season. The 30-year-old, who had already won in Wengen in 2019, was impeccable throughout his entire run. Kriechmayr carried incredible speed through the Kernen-S section and displayed expert fluidity through the technical turns lower down the course. Kriechmayr was unstoppable and took his 10th career victory. Italian star Dominik Paris settled for third. Ryan Cochran-Siegle lead the US Ski Team and finished in 15th.
The Lauberhorn is typically held on the weekend prior to the infamous Kitzbuhel Downhill, and 2022 is no different. The men now head East into Austria for the iconic Hannenkhamrennen on the Streif course. The most prestigious race on the alpine circuit will be held twice, with downhills on January 21st and 22nd. Beat Fuez will be looking to defend his Kitzbuhel title from 2021, and Austria powerhouses Vincent Kriechmayr and Matthias Mayer will be looking for important wins at home before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. After a podium in the second Wengen downhill, Dominik Paris continues to lead the chase for the Downhill Globe. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde sits in second, and Beat Fuez is third. Marco Odermatt retains his grasp on the Overall Crystal Globe lead.
Full Results and Schedules can be found at fis-ski.com