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Sauder hot, Maier not at Val d'Isere

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Day One Results:

It was like something out of the Twilight Zone.

When the snow finally settled at the finish line at Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 16, there wasn’t a single Austrian downhiller on the podium. Even more supernatural was the Italian team’s sweep of said podium, their first one, two, three finish since 1988.

It was also a career-best day for Luke Sauder of Cambridge, Ontario, who finished the tight race in 10th place.

"I’m happy, I feel like a kid," said the 30 year old. "I woke up this morning and saw the weather, a little foggy with no sun, and I thought that the day was going to be awful. But I really wanted to race today – I was very excited, but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was premonition."

Sauder’s previous career bests were 11 th place finishes at Chamonix, France in 1997, and Wengen, Switzerland in 1998. He finished 10 th in a training run on Thursday.

"This race was a step up in my career," said Sauder. "I trained well this summer, so I needed to prove something today, for myself and for the team."

Teammate Kevin Wert of Rossland missed his shot at the top-10 and possibly a podium with a crash in the last section of the course. Up to that point, the big 25 year old had posted one of the fastest interval times of the race.

It was Wert’s second crash in three weeks, the first being a serious collision with a fence at Lake Louise which left him with a concussion. In France, he was rattled by the fall, completely disappointed with the outcome, but otherwise uninjured.

It may be something that race fans and his teammates have to get used to: in his bio, Wert identifies his strength as "Going fast" and his weakness as "Turning".

Alessandro Fattori, Kristian Ghedina and Roland Fischnaller of Italy took the top three spots, while the Austrian’s only managed to put one racer in the top-10. Surprisingly, that racer was not Hermann "The Hermanator" Maier (16 th ) but Franz Werner, who ended up fifth.

Day Two Results

The weirdness continued in Sunday’s giant slalom when judges disqualified Maier from the competition for taking too long to do his pre-race inspection. In protest he raced anyway, skiing the closed course 10 minutes before the race was set to start. As a result, the race jury suspended The Hermanator from competing in the next GS, and fined him 25,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $23,350 Cdn). The Austrian Ski Federation is currently appealing the fine.

Michael von Gruenigen of Switzerland won the contest, edging past Heinz Schilchegger of Austria. Bode Miller of the U.S. finished third.

The only Canadian in the competition was Jean-Phillipe Roy of Ste. Flavie Quebec. Roy cracked the top 30 on his first run, but was a DNF on his second.

"Unfortunately I caught a tip and lost my balance after the intermediate time," said Roy. "It’s too bad but you have to go for it to have a chance to improve."

This weekend, the men’s World Cup tour moves on to Bormio, Italy.

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