Vonn, Schleper to race in Aspen today

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— The women’s U.S. Alpine Ski Team is set to charge this weekend as the Aspen Winter­national, the only women’s World Cup stop in America, starts today at 10 a.m. with a giant slalom.

Kicking off today and in Sunday’s slalom is two-time World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn along with 2006 Olympic GS gold medalist Julia Mancuso and World Cup winner Sarah Schleper.

Joining the trio in GS are Megan McJames, Leanne Smith and downhiller Stacey Cook (Mammoth, Calif.), who fought for the final spot via inter squad time trial earlier in the week.

NBC will air coverage of the GS at 1 p.m. Sunday. Live coverage also is available at www.UniversalSports.com.

“I really enjoy Aspen, especially because my friends and family are here. The ‘Vonntourage’ definitely is in full force, and that gets me fired up to try and do well for them and for the home crowd,” said Vonn, who was fourth in both GS andslalom last season at Aspen. “I feel like it’s the one chance where I can really show Americans how exciting ski racing is and how well the Americans are doing.”

Vonn’s GS fourth last season was a career best in the discipline, but she’s looking to upgrade that mark this time around. The double World Championship gold medalist is the only American woman to win in four different World Cup events, leaving only a GS podium off her resume.

“Last year, I felt like it was a really good result, but I think I can do more, and I’m definitely hoping that this year I can do a little bit better,” said the Olympics-bound Vonn.

Jumping into the slalom mix are Hailey Duke, Kaylin Richardson, Sterling Grant and Julia Ford. Duke and Grant posted their first World Cup points at last winter’s Aspen slalom, and Richardson is fresh off a stunning World Cup performance two weeks ago in Levi, Finland, where she stormed out of the 70th start position to finish 23rd.

“Aspen is so great because it’s the only World Cup we get to race in our home country, but the best thing about Aspen is that it’s an awesome course — it keeps coming at you the entire time,” said Richardson, a two-time U.S. downhill champion.

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