KILLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin had a roaring crowd in her corner, possibly the biggest to watch a women’s World Cup race.
But it was not enough to overcome Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg in a stirring duel Saturday on Killington’s aptly named Superstar trail.
Rebensburg won her second straight World Cup giant slalom by edging Shiffrin, the overall points leader who was skiing in the state where she attended school.
The German finished two runs on Killington’s Superstar trail in 1 minute, 57.63 seconds, with Shiffrin 0.67 back. Manuela Moelgg of Italy held on for third, 1.49 seconds off the lead.
The race took place before about 18,000 fans — organizers believe it the largest crowd for a women’s World Cup race.
And what a race they saw. The second run turned into a showdown star skiers, with the last four each taking over the top spot.
Moelgg had been third after the first run and went into the lead with a strong run. Then Shiffrin took her turn. She is a product of Burke Mountain Academy in northern Vermont and was greeted with thunderous cheers as she left the gate. The noise followed her all the way down the course. She had a great run and wound up 0.82 seconds ahead of Moelgg.
But the day belonged to Vebensburg, who had a superlative second run despite what she described as a big mistake at the top of the course. She said she was surprised she came out on top, and by the margin of victory.
“Sometimes when you make a mistake, you know you have to charge, to go 100 percent,” Rebensburg said. “Sometimes mistakes can make you faster.”
Still, Shiffrin was pleased with her progress in giant slalom since the opener in Soelden.
“This was a step in the right direction,” she said, adding she felt more confident at Killington. She made a few adjustments to her equipment and her attitude.
“I felt like I made some good turns,” she said.
Stephanie Brunner of Austria was fourth in 1:59.28 and Federica Brignone of Italy was fifth in 1:59.38. Tessa Worley of France — the giant slalom winner at Killington last season in the first World Cup race held at the resort — was sixth.
The sunshine that greeted the racers for the first run gave way to thick clouds as the second run progressed. It was spitting rain by the time the last skiers took to the course. The overcast made it difficult to see, what racers call flat light conditions.
Rebensburg said she was praying it wouldn’t start raining hard before she got out of the gate.
“We train in all kinds of weather, on all kinds of snow,” she said. “We know how to handle it. When you’re in good shape, it really doesn’t matter.”
Rebensburg was surprised by the many fans and said Killington is building a great reputation with the skiers.
“The crowd cheers for everyone,” she said. “And this just a well-organized event. The good conditions make it possible for us to have a really good race, and race at the highest level.”
The World Cup circuit returned to Killington and Vermont this year after a successful weekend of racing in 2016.
“East Coast fans are just incredible,” Shiffrin said. She mentioned a message she’d received from a fan before Saturday’s race. “It said, ‘We’re not here to watch you win, we’re here to support you.’”
The day of racing began with a moment of silence for David Poisson, the French skier who was killed Nov. 13 while training in Canada.
Racing continues at Killington on Sunday with the women’s slalom. Shiffrin won the slalom at Killington last year.