Slovakia

Petra Vlhova snaps Mikaela Shiffrin’s slalom win streak

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Slovakian Petra Vlhova ended Mikaela Shiffrin‘s slalom win streak at just shy of a year, routing Shiffrin by 1.31 seconds under the lights in Zagreb, Croatia.

Shiffrin won the previous six World Cup slaloms dating to February. Vlhova, fastest in both runs Saturday, recorded the the largest margin of victory for anybody over Shiffrin in a slalom since November 2014 (not counting Shiffrin DNFs).

Full results are here.

“Some days, I am so-so. With Miki, you have to be always perfect,” Vlhova said. “If I want to win, I have to risk all the time.”

Shiffrin’s deficit after the opening run — 1.16 seconds — marked her largest in a slalom in nearly three years. She lost eight tenths to Vlhova during a section in which she slipped coming off one gate, putting her left hand on the ground to rebalance.

“Even if I had no mistake, I think Petra would have been faster,” Shiffrin said. “The only way I could have won is if she skied out or made some really, really big mistake. … That’s not something special for her. She’s able to do that. It wasn’t like she had the best run of her life. She just skied really well. I think she can do this again and again and again.”

A day earlier, Shiffrin posted video of a rare fall in slalom training that left her with a sore hip. Coach Mike Day said he could count on one hand the number of times he’s seen Shiffrin hit the snow in slalom training, NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said.

Vlhova, who is 24 and three months younger than Shiffrin, has been the American’s only slalom rival the last few years. The duo combined to win the last 24 World Cup slaloms (19 for Shiffrin, five for Vlhova). Vlhova’s staff has been known to film Shiffrin’s training sessions.

Shiffrin’s mom and longtime coach said in 2017 that the four-inches-taller Vlhova “skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” according to the Denver Post.

“Since Petra has been much stronger these last few years, that definitely brings my motivation to another level,” Shiffrin said Saturday. “They are one of the few teams who have been able to, in a way, outdo what I have been able to accomplish with my team. I have a lot of respect for that.

“If we weren’t competitors, we would be really good friends. But there’s also this side, you have to stay just far enough away that you can keep the fire.”

Vlhova finished a distant second to Shiffrin in last season’s World Cup overall standings, plus won the world championships giant slalom. This season, Shiffrin holds a comfortable 313-point lead in the overall standings over Vlhova through 13 of 39 scheduled races. Each race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale.

Shiffrin remains on 64 career World Cup wins, 18 shy of Lindsey Vonn‘s female record. She also remains tied with Vonn for the most wins for a woman in a single discipline of 43.

The men race in Zagreb on Sunday (11:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold). The women move to Austria for a downhill and combined next weekend. Shiffrin was hopeful to race as of early this week.

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Peter Sagan cleared over Tour de France disqualification

AP
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PARIS (AP) — The UCI ruled Tuesday that Peter Sagan did not intentionally elbow Mark Cavendish during a sprint finish at the Tour de France in a crash that led to the Slovak rider’s disqualification.

The governing body of cycling said in a statement that it has ended its legal dispute with the three-time world champion, a few hours before a scheduled hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sagan was sent home from the three-week race after clashing with his British rival during the fourth stage (video here). The incident forced Cavendish to abandon with a broken shoulder.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team immediately appealed the race jury’s decision to allow its rider to finish the race but the request was denied by CAS.

“Having considered the materials submitted in the CAS proceedings, including video footage that was not available at the time when the race jury had disqualified Peter Sagan, the parties agreed that the crash was an unfortunate and unintentional race incident,” the UCI said.

UCI president David Lappartient said lessons will be drawn from the case and wants a “support commissaire” to assist race jury members “with special video expertise” at the main events of the UCI World Tour from next season.

“The past is already forgotten. It’s all about improving our sport in the future,” Sagan said. “I am happy that my case will lead to positive developments, because it is important for our sport to make fair and comprehensible decisions, even if emotions are sometimes heated up.”

Sagan’s explanation for extending his right elbow into Cavendish’s path was that he was just trying to stay upright.

The crash occurred about 50 meters from the end of the stage and Cavendish slammed into the barriers along the road, with two other riders plowing over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Cavendish said at the time his rival’s move didn’t appear malicious.

“It has always been our goal to make clear that Peter had not caused Mark Cavendish’s fall. This was Peter’s position from Day 1,” Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk said. “No one wants riders to fall or get hurt but the incident in Vittel was a race accident as can happen in the course of a sprint.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin beaten in first slalom of Olympic season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin acknowledged it after taking second in the season-opening slalom Saturday. The American has a rival in the discipline that she has dominated the last five years.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova edged Shiffrin for the second straight World Cup slalom, this time overcoming a first-run deficit to win by one tenth of a second in Levi, Finland.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion in slalom, relinquished a .21 lead over Vlhova from the morning run.

Swiss Wendy Holdener was third, a distant 1.35 seconds back. Full results are here.

Shiffrin was aiming for her 27th World Cup slalom win and 32nd overall. Instead, Vlhova, who is 22 like Shiffrin, won her third career World Cup race, all slaloms.

“Mikaela, she’s always fast, but now I am fast,” said Vlhova, who was given a reindeer for the World Cup victory.

Vlhova also beat Shiffrin at the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., last season, after Shiffrin had already clinched her first World Cup overall title and her fourth World Cup slalom season title in five years.

Shiffrin and Vlhova trained together this week.

“In all honesty, Petra skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen, said, according to the Denver Post. “Their coaches are always on the hill, videoing Mikaela. I think Petra is going to give Mikaela a real run for her money.”

Shiffrin said she felt OK on Saturday, bur her timing was off on essential turns.

“I expect that it’s going to be a really cool fight with [Vlhova] this year,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin’s slalom dominance was on full display the last three seasons. At one point, she had a streak of seven straight World Cup slalom wins and victories in 15 straight slaloms that she started overall.

She missed five World Cup slaloms in the 2015-16 season due to a knee injury.

The men race a slalom in Levi on Sunday. A broadcast schedule is here.

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Levi Women’s Slalom
1. Petra Vlhova (SVK) — 1:49.98
2. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — +.10
3. Wendy Holdener (SUI) — +1.35
21. Resi Stiegler (USA) — +4.15