Holaus leads training; Vonn ready for six-peat

04 December 2009 07:20

With all three downhill training runs completed in the women's Audi FIS World Cup in Lake Louise, Austria's Maria Holaus is showing clear signs of domination.

Holaus, who missed the majority of last season due to a knee injury and whose career highlights include a World Cup super-G victory in Cortina d'Ampezzo in 2008 followed by a DH podium in St. Moritz as well as a DH podium in San Sicario in 2007, led Thursday's downhill training in Lake Louise once again.

After leading Tuesday's training and finishing behind Lindsey Vonn, who led Wednesday's training, Holaus came down the hill in 1 minute, 50.95 seconds on Thursday, about three tenths of a second ahead of Switzerland's Nadia Styger (1:51.23) and teammate Andrea Fischbacher (1:51.26).

"It was just training," Holaus was quick to point out on Thursday. "But I'm self-confident at the moment. I like this course. I love Canada. I love the view. I love the cold. I love the slope. It's one of the fastest courses in the World Cup. I like the smooth and long turns. It's nice to ski here. You have a perfect grip."

As to her success all week in training, Holaus said the greatest aspect of it is providing confidence going into the weekend's races, which begin Friday.

"It's always good to know you're in shape and you're self-confident and just to know I'm a good skier," she said. "That's what makes it so much easier for tomorrow."

Most racers agree that Lake Louise is a favorite among all the stops on the women's downhill circuit, but the course is especially meaningful for Vonn, who has won here five times - every year since 2004 - and podiumed three times (once in downhill and twice in super G).

"This course just suits my strengths a lot," Vonn said after Thursday's training, in which she finished fifth. "The whole course, the key is maintaining your momentum and not losing it in any one place ... keep building up the speed everywhere. That acutally makes it really difficult because you can't afford to make any mistakes. Sometimes the easiest courses are the most diffiuclt that way."

As for the Lake Louise course, Vonn says she "knows it like the back of my hand" and is the best person to describe its features.

"There's quite a bit of terrain on the top," she said. "There's a jump, then it's mostly flats - just nice, sweeping, long tuck turns. Then you come into the most technical part of the course right in the middle. Coach's Corner is a big, left-footed turn and a jump. Then you've got Fishnet, which is the huge, left-footed turn that's right along the fenceline which takes you into Fallaway, which is that big, steep section. I think that's the most important part of the course. Even if you don't ski Fishnet clean, you have to be on the right line going into Fallaway so you carry all of that speed down to the flats. From there it's just tucking it out and seeing how fast your skis are and how much speed you really gain from Fallaway."

Vonn said the snow was in perfect shape on Thursday, although some turns are getting icy. Austrian Andrea Fischbacher, who has finished third twice in downhill training this week and sixth the first day, said speeds are increasing on the course.

"The course is really good," Fischbacher said. "The slope gets a little bit icier so it's going a little bit faster every day."

by Shauna Farnell, www.skiracing.com