Switzerland's Didier Cuche has ended his four year wait for a World Cup victory with an amazing 'home snow' win in the giant slalom race at Adelboden.This content was published on January 5, 2002 - 16:05
The 27-year-old speed specialist from canton Neuchatel finished Saturday's contest more than a second ahead of second-placed Frenchman Frédéric Covili with Sweden's Fredrik Nyberg taking third spot.
It was only Cuche's second ever victory on the World Cup tour and his first in the giant slalom, previously considered the Swiss skier's third strongest discipline.
"It's incredible," a beaming Cuche told swissinfo, "because although I knew I could be fast in the giant slalom and maybe win a race sometime I never thought I would do it by 2002."
The key to Cuche's victory came in his astonishing first run in which he tore down the daunting Kuonisbärgli course as if it was a nursery slope. Pushing himself to his very limits at the end, Cuche came close to wiping out just two gates from the finish line but held on to take a commanding 1.10 second lead into the final run.
"I actually thought I was going too slow in the first run," Cuche revealed, "because I wasn't having any problems so when I saw my time in the finish area I couldn't believe it."
Taking a less radical line on his second run, Cuche still managed to extend his eventual winning margin by a further five hundredths of a second.
Although Cuche's last victory dates back to a Kitzbühel downhill race in January 1998, there have been plenty of indications this season that his time would soon come again.
Cuche's impressive start to the current campaign has included eight top ten finishes with his latest in Adelboden lifting him up to second in the sport's overall rankings.
"I had some good conditioning training in the summer," Cuche replied when asked to explain his recent rise in form. "And I think I'm a lot quieter in my mind than last year. The way my ski training went in the summer also gave me a lot of confidence for the start of the season."
If Cuche can maintain his form into the middle of the season, the relatively unknown Swiss skier could soon belong among the medal favourites ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. For now though Cuche is sticking to his quiet state of mind.
"We have so many World Cup races still to go before Salt Lake City, so I think it's important to stay concentrated on those and not to think now about the Olympics," Cuche insisted.
Von Grünigen injured
For Cuche's team-mate Michael von Grünigen the Olympics must seem all too close. The pre-season favourite for World Cup and Olympic glory in the giant slalom category, von Grünigen has suffered a series of set-backs this season - a series that continued on Saturday.
Colliding with a gate on the first run, the reigning world champion injured his right elbow and was forced to pull out of the second run.
Von Grünigen, who is still looking for his first victory on the World Cup tour this season, later announced that he would also not be able to take part in Sunday's slalom race.
by Mark Ledsom, Adelboden
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