Travis Ganong earns first WCup win

SANTA CATERINA, Italy -- American skier Travis Ganong earned his first World Cup victory at a men's downhill Sunday, less than six weeks before his home world championship race in Beaver Creek.

It's the second downhill win in a row for the U.S. team and the second in Italy after Steven Nyman's triumph in Val Gardena last week. The last American back-to-back downhill wins dated from the 2007-08 season when Bode Miller won in Bormio and Wengen.

"I had a super run and I am very happy," Ganong said. "It's a sensational end to the year. I was attacking and I was having fun."

On a course new to the men's circuit, Ganong finished in 1 minute, 32.42 seconds to beat Olympic champion Matthias Mayer of Austria by 0.09 and Dominik Paris of Italy by 0.21.

Overall leader Kjetil Jansrud, who won two downhill races this season, was 1.35 behind and finished outside of the top 10, though he still leads the discipline standings.

He tweeted after the race that it was "a rough day at work."

Having a strong run from the start, Ganong excelled on the second part of the Deborah Compagnoni course. Several pre-race favorites had faster split times at the first section but couldn't match the American's pace afterward.

"I thought my run was fast," said Mayer, who praised Ganong for his finish section. "On the bottom part I also wanted to race a direct line but I caught a bump and didn't manage to win back the lost time."

Ganong's victory hasn't come out of the blue despite it being only his second World Cup podium.

The 26-year-old from Squaw Valley has enjoyed a strong 2014. He came fifth in the Olympic downhill in Sochi in February and earned his sole previous podium shortly afterward by placing third in Kvitfjell, Norway.

Ganong also came fifth in Beaver Creek earlier this month for his 11th career top-10 finish.

The American results in downhill are also a success for former women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser, who switched to the men's speed team in the offseason.

The course in Santa Caterina, which replaced the classic downhill on the Stelvio piste in nearby Bormio, was used for the women's downhill at the 2005 world championships but has since been modified.

Fierce winds and limited visibility on the upper part of the initial course forced organizers to lower the start gate, which shortened the run by 590 meters to 2.685 kilometers.

The men's World Cup circuit continues with a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 6, while the next downhill is scheduled for Wengen on Jan. 17.