Descent to Kitzbühel – Hannes Reichelt exclusively: “Aleksander Kilde wants to eat the gates from the start”

Hannes Reichelt experienced joy and sorrow on the legendary Streif. On January 25, 2014, the former skier from the Salzburg region triumphed in the downhill ahead of Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal and American Bode Miller. Since then, the golden chamois, one of the ski World Cup’s most prized trophies, adorns its trophy collection. In total, Reichelt has been on the podium five times in his career at Kitzbühel.

He had his darkest hour at the Tyrolean ski resort in 2016, when he spectacularly flew over the edge of the local mountain and flipped over several times before crashing into the backstop at high speed. . Seven years later, Reichelt watches the Kitzbühel weekend spectacle in a relaxed manner from the finish area.

But before that World Cup in Kitzbühel to Friday at the start (from 11:30 a.m. live on discovery+ and in live ticker) pulls out all the stops, in an exclusive interview Reichelt gives us insight into speed racing on the famous Streif.

The interview was conducted by Thomas Janz

Mr. Reichelt, the legend of Kitzbühel keeps ski fans spellbound year after year. Is the Streif really the toughest downhill on the World Cup circuit and if so, why?

Hannes Reichelt: It always depends a bit on the slope conditions. Bormio and Kitzbühel compete each year for the title of the most difficult downhill in the World Cup circus. The Bormio track looked very difficult on TV and in Kitzbühel it won’t be easier at the weekend either. What makes the Streif so dangerous is that it is extremely narrow in places and there is hardly any room to fall. This is one of the reasons why there have been several serious injuries in the past.


Longread – Mythos Streif: how Dreßen cracked the Kitz code


A lot has already happened in the Mausefalle, Steep Slope, Hausberg Kante, Traverse and Zielsprung passes. I can tell you a thing or two because in 2016 I took off in the traverse and had several rollovers. I can assure you: “Better not to do that a second time!”

In 2004, Stephan Eberharter had a 1.21 second lead over second-placed Daron Rahlves in his legendary triumph in the Kitzbühel downhill. What is the key to setting a record time on the Streif?

Rich: Everything must be in order for such a trip! Starting with the material at slope conditions. It is important that you have opportunities to make a good time with your starting number. I still remember very well the race of Stephan Eberharter, who was in incredible form at the time. I just thought: ‘How can you drive the Streif with this line?’. It was fascinating and a masterpiece to see how he outclassed the competition.

Aleksander Aamot Kilde has dominated almost at will this season – what sets the Norwegian apart from the competition?

Rich: Rudi Nierlich once said, “If it works, then it works.” It’s like that with Marco Odermatt in giant slalom and partly in Super-G and it’s like that with Kilde in the speed disciplines. Aleksander drives incredibly on the limit. He has the absolute will to win, he almost wants to eat the goals from the start. I’m curious to see how long Kilde can last. It’s extremely exhausting mentally when you always give 100%, even if it seems to be easy for him at the moment. The main difference with the competition is its aggressiveness. And then the whole body and hardware works very well together.

Marco Odermatt (left) and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde are having a good laugh this season.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Where do you see the reasons why German downhillers are currently in a results crisis?

Rich: I would say the injury devil slipped a bit. Sepp Ferstl broke his upper arm last spring. More recently, Thomas Dreßen had to take a break after the World Cup in Val Gardena due to a thigh muscle injury. Romed Baumann has had a promising training run in Kitzbühel and is on the rise. Dreßen is absent from the team as a workhorse. Even though Tom has returned to Wengen, he is not in top form. If Dreßen returns to his old form, he will bring his teammates back with him. At the moment everyone is at the same level, rather mediocre. Only the best runner is missing. It’s a shame because the DSV speed team has great potential.

Dreßen was deeply moved after his new return to Wengen. During his journey, however, clear uncertainties could be perceived. How long does it take for the winner of Kitzbühel 2018 to be in front again?

Rich: You have to give Tom an entire season through which he can walk away unscathed. Further development always comes with small successes to build on. Little by little, he will do more and if he reappears in the top 5, he will soon be back on the podium. If he feels the podium is within reach again, he can win again. Dreßen was away for a long time and it takes time to reconnect, after all sport never sleeps.

Kitzbühel 2018: Dreßen is crowned queen of the Streif thanks to a fabulous race

Who in particular can Austrian ski fans look forward to in the home game?

Rich: Certainly Vincent Kriechmayr. Daniel Hemetsberger is another contender for the podium. Otmar Striedinger can create surprise. But that’s all.

Kitzbühel becomes a big farewell party for Beat Feuz. Saying goodbye to last year’s winner with a bang and how do you manage to hide the emotions so you can focus fully on the race?

Rich: I’m very curious how he approaches his farewell. After all, he knows it’s his last race and in fact you don’t want to take an undue risk of injury at the end of your career. Who would want to complicate life afterwards just because he gave it his all again in the final competition? I don’t think Feuz will fight for the win. It is exactly the few percentage points that you save in reserve so that you do not fly away. I think he will come down cleanly, get close to the limit, but not play like hell, but take advantage of the finish and arrive safely.

The routine went perfectly: Feuz takes his third victory on the Streif

What emotions come to mind when you think of the Kitzbühel triumph in 2014?

Rich: I still have goosebumps because that victory was one of the greatest successes of my career. At that time, I was completely in a tunnel, especially because of my back problems. The pain was excruciating. The whole day was very focused and suited to the race. I knew I was beaten, I couldn’t let anything distract me and I had to focus one hundred percent on the race. I was so focused from start to finish that I managed to block out the thousands of spectators along the course completely. It was my recipe for success.

Is there an anecdote about your experiences in Kitzbühel that you can tell today with a clear conscience and from a distance?

Rich: Here is my story: Before my first downhill training on the Streif in 2003, I rode the gondola with Eberharter and Hans Knauß. The first thing Eberharter said at the time was, “Every year I have such respect for that hill.” The few words from the man who became the 2002 pre-season Olympic gold medalist in giant slalom, walked out of Salt Lake City with a full set of medals, and won all kinds of things made me beat the heart.

You might also be interested in: Back to the first great love: Dreßen wants to have fun on the Streif

The routine went perfectly: Feuz takes his third victory on the Streif


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Crazy show from Streif: Kriechmayr wins the first downhill in Kitzbühel


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