SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy – It’s the time of year when World Cup skiers get worn down with flu, fever and general fatigue – and all of the protagonists in Tuesday’s giant slalom were affected by it in one way or another.
Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany returned from two weeks in bed to claim her third win of the season while overall World Cup leader Mikaela Shiffrin cited fatigue as a factor after an uncharacteristic fall in the first run
“It’s Day 7 on snow in a row and Day 11 or 12 on snow with only one day off,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press. “So it’s a lot. It’s definitely a point in the season where fatigue is starting to build up.”
Sitting third after the opening leg, Rebensburg had the fastest second run to finish 0.03 seconds ahead of first-run leader Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway amid perfect conditions at the Kronplatz resort.
“After this period when I was lying at home on my couch watching other girls ripping it wasn’t easy to stay patient,” Rebensburg said. “But now I’m 100 percent healthy.”
Mowinckel was 0.21 ahead of Rebensburg at the final checkpoint but lost speed through the final gates. Still, it was the Norwegian’s best career result and she celebrated as if she had won.
Defending champion Federica Brignone of Italy finished third, 0.66 behind, despite a fever that kept her out of Sunday’s super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
“In between runs I was almost asleep,” Brignone said. “But I tried not to think I’ve been sick the last few days and lying in bed all day long. ... I tried to give everything in front of my people.”
Shiffrin lost control of her inside ski coming around a turn as she entered the toughest section of a slope named Erta, which translates as steep. With a gradient of 61 percent in that section, Shiffrin slid a long way down the course but immediately got up and was not injured.
“I got on my inside ski going over that breakover and it was the one turn that I knew like, ‘Have some direction, it gets really steep after this. It’s a short breakover. And you just want to make sure you’re on point on this turn,’” Shiffrin said. “And I was going into it really aggressive but fine.
“It happens,” Shiffrin added. “One of the things I’ve been working on the most is putting the pressure on my outside ski so I don’t boot out like I did.”
After missing a gate on Sunday in the Cortina super-G, it marked the first time in more than six years that Shiffrin failed to finish two consecutive races. The last time came in back-to-back slaloms in Courchevel, France, and Flachau, Austria, in December 2011 – before the American registered her first World Cup podium.
It was the 16th career World Cup win for Rebensburg, who also won the giant slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Rebensburg’s other wins this season came in the season opener in Soelden, Austria, in October and then in Killington, Vermont, in November.
Marta Bassino of Italy finished fourth and Sara Hector of Sweden was fifth.
Shiffrin still holds a massive 843-point lead over Rebensburg in the overall standings. In the GS rankings, Rebensburg moved 37 points ahead of Shiffrin.
“That’s how it goes when you’re pushing the limits,” Shiffrin said. “I’ve been exploring that mentality of pushing my limit. I like to step in the race course to know that my skiing is good enough that I could ski at 90 percent but it’s more fun when I’m really hammering.
“And with GS there’s a lot of really awesome competition,” Shiffrin added. “When I watch these girls I know they’re not holding back.”
Shiffrin had been undefeated this year in the technical disciplines of GS, slalom and parallel slalom with five straight wins.
She has two more technical races in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, next weekend before she travels to South Korea for the Pyeonghchang Olympics.