Sofia Goggia wins World Cup downhill, closes on season title

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland, 26 Feb: Sofia Goggia raced toward another World Cup downhill title with a fifth win in her dominating season on Sunday.
Goggia raced through lightly falling snow and was fastest on the lower section of the Mont Lachaux course to finish 0.15 seconds ahead of Federica Brignone, her Italy teammate who matched a career-best result in downhill.
“It was really a relief for me because it was tough (that) I crashed in the one and only training run,” said Goggia, whose 22nd career World Cup win was her 17th in downhill.
Brignone got some of the best racing conditions as the No. 21 starter, starting 35 minutes after Goggia when the snow had stopped falling and sunshine broke through the clouds to light the slope.
Laura Gauché wearing the No. 26 bib then placed third, 0.41 seconds behind Goggia, for a first career podium finish. The French racer’s previous best result in downhill was seventh.
“It’s amazing, I didn’t expect that,” said Gauché, who acknowledged “I feel lucky with the visibility because the first racers had really bad visibility.”
Mikaela Shiffrin skipped the weekend meeting at Crans-Montana to take a break after the world championships with a massive lead of more than 700 points in the overall World Cup standings. The 27-year-old American is well on track to win a fifth giant crystal globe as the overall season-long champion.
Goggia’s fifth win in seven World Cup downhills earned 100 race points and extended her lead in the season-long standings to 179 over Ilka Štuhec, who placed ninth.
With two downhills left — next weekend at Kvitfjell, Norway and March 15 at the final week’s races at Soldeu, Andorra — Goggia needs just a top-10 finish in either race to secure a fourth career crystal globe trophy.
The win for the 2018 Olympic champion came two weeks after she crashed out as favorite at the world championships. The 17th World Cup downhill win lifted Goggia into a tie for fourth all-time in the marquee speed discipline which Lindsey Vonn leads with 43.
Brignone, the 2020 overall champion, still seeks a first career downhill win though said she was “so proud of what I did today.”
Racing immediately after Brignone, Isabella Wright fell when she seemed unbalanced by the shifting terrain. The American slid about 60 meters (yards) down the slope before coming to a stop.
Romane Miradoli crashed out when her left ski hooked a gate at a sharp turn. The ski detached and she was turned sideways before hitting the safety fences.
Both racers appeared to be unhurt and skied down to the finish area.
The start was delayed by more than 30 minutes while fog clouded the upper part of the 2.45-kilometer (1½-mile) course at Crans-Montana.
The downhill was rescheduled from Saturday when a combination of poor visibility on a lower section and a soft snow surface in the sunshine made racing too dangerous.
The snow surface was more stable Sunday after a cold night and race-time temperature around minus-4 degrees Celsius (25 Fahrenheit). PTI