French skier Cyprien Sarrazin mastered the demanding Streif course for a second time in 24 hours on Saturday, beating world champion Marco Odermatt to repeat his World Cup downhill triumph from the previous day.
Cam Alexander top Canadian finisher in 24thThe Associated Press
· Posted: Jan 20, 2024 8:28 AM EST | Last Updated: 32 minutes ago
France’s Cyprien Sarrazin competes during the men’s downhill in Kitzbuhel, Austria on Saturday. (Johann Groder/AFP via Getty Images)A former giant slalom specialist, Cyprien Sarrazin never raced a World Cup downhill until just over 13 months ago.
Now the French skier is among the main candidates to win the season-long title in alpine skiing’s fastest discipline.
Sarrazin mastered the demanding Streif course for a second time in 24 hours on Saturday in Kitzbuhel, Austria, beating world champion Marco Odermatt to repeat his downhill triumph from the previous day.
“It’s incredible,” Sarrazin said on Austrian TV. “That’s why we live, to bring the joy and the energy. I love this sport, I love this feeling, this is why I am here.”
It was Sarrazin’s third win in a downhill career that only started with his debut in Beaver Creek in December 2022.
His current successful series began last month in Italy, when he finished fourth in Val Gardena. He added a win in Bormio two weeks later and two second places in Wengen last week before his double triumph in Kitzbuehel.
“It’s special, I’m really proud of myself,” said Sarrazin, who also won a super-G in Switzerland last week.
Racing in perfect sunny conditions under a blue sky and in front of 45,000 spectators, Odermatt had just taken a big lead in the race despite a mistake early in his run.
But Sarrazin stunned him with an all-attacking run down the frightening 3.3-kilometer course to beat the Swiss skier’s time by 0.91 seconds — the biggest winning margin in the race since 2011, when Swiss skier Didier Cuche beat American great Bode Miller by 0.98.
“The best day in my sport life,” said Sarrazin, who screamed and clicked out of his skis after finishing and jumped onto the finish-area safety barrier in celebration.
“I thought about it in my bed last night, it was crazy to jump on it,” the Frenchman said.
Sarrazin had won Friday’s race by 0.05 seconds from Italian speed specialist Florian Schieder, with Odermatt 0.35 back in third.
Cam Alexander was the top Canadian finisher, 2.56 seconds behind Sarrazin for 24th place.
With two-time World Cup downhill champion Alexander Aamodt Kilde out for the season following the Norwegian’s crash in Switzerland, Odermatt and Sarrazin are set to battle it out for this season’s discipline title.
After Saturday’s seventh of this season’s 11 downhills, Odermatt leads Sarrazin by a mere six points. Next are two downhills in Chamonix, France, on Feb. 2-3.
Odermatt and Sarrazin are also 1-2 in the overall standings, but the two-time defending champion from Switzerland has a buffer of nearly 500 points here.
Last week, Odermatt beat Sarrazin twice to win both downhills at another iconic venue on the men’s circuit in Wengen for the Swiss skier’s first victories in the sport’s fastest discipline.
For three minutes, Odermatt believed he might have won in Kitzbuehel as well.
“But I knew the big favorite was starting right after me. He is in a superb form,” Odermatt said. “Today I could have won the last big race that is missing in my career, but now I have a big goal for next season.”
Sarrazin and Odermatt raced in a league of their own again, with third-placed Dominik Paris finishing 1.44 seconds behind. The Italian skier also placed third in the downhill in Wengen last Saturday.
Stefan Babinsky in fourth was the best finisher of the Austrian team, which ended its seventh straight downhill without a racer on the podium.
Maxence Muzaton in fifth and Nils Allegre in ninth added to the strong showing of the French team.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle posted the fastest time in the first section but finished 2.22 second off the lead and outside the top 10, a day after the American finished 0.01 behind Odermatt in fourth.
Thomas Dressen, who in 2018 became the last skier from Germany to win the storied event in Kitzbuehel, competed in what he said was the last race of his career after struggling for years with knee and hip problems.
The race weekend in Kitzbuehel concludes with a slalom on Sunday.
With files from CBC Sports