Innerhofer brings speed into first DH training in Garmisch

10 February 2011 12:37

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – After Thursday’s men’s downhill training run in Garmisch, Didier Cuche named Christof Innerhofer the favorite for the gold medal going into Saturday’s world championship race. Indeed the Italian, freshly crowned super G champion, carried his speed from Wednesday’s victory straight into downhill training.

The 26-year-old from South Tirol who won the super G by more than a half a second was more than a full second faster than anyone else in downhill training on Thursday. He finished in 2 minutes, 0.71 seconds, followed most closely by Aksel Lund Svindal, 1.05 seconds back and then fellow Italian Dominik Paris, 1.69 seconds behind.

A few racers deliberately stood up before crossing the finish line – Cuche being one of them – finishing fourth, 1.82 seconds off of Innerhofer’s time although he was well over a second and a half in the lead during his run. Bode Miller was also putting down a fast run but stood up several hundred meters before the finish line and ended up ninth. Innerhofer, however, said he was giving it his all.

“I gave really much. I tried to push. I made a great run,” he said, adding that he was indeed buoyed by the lasting adrenaline of his win on Wednesday. “I had a good feeling today … a good feeling all this year. But in the training I was [many] times really fast, but we will see for Saturday. A race is race and training is training.”

Svindal, on the other hand, had a bad feeling on the Kandahar.

“It was extremely difficult,” he said of his run. “The course is not as difficult, it’s the snow and the light that make it so tough. I did not feel very good. I think it felt a little crazy. The thing is it’s not so dangerous, I think. It’s dangerous because it’s tiring and you can’t see. I don’t like this and I don’t think a lot of other guys like it – except for Innerhofer seems to love it. But as long as the safety is OK, there will be a race and we will try our best.”

Paris, 21, who landed his first World Cup podium last month in the downhill at Chamonix and also did very well in Garmisch in 2009, nabbing Junior World Championship silver medals in downhill and combined plus the bronze in super G, is part of the Kandahar course fan club.

“It’s very good. It’s very bumpy here, difficult to go fast, but I like the turns and the flat in the top. I have a good feeling there,” Paris said, adding that he felt inspired by Innerhofer’s super G win, but he was not giving 100 percent effort in the first downhill training run. “I think I give 80 or 90 percent. It’s very icy but I had a good grip up there, it’s more because it’s so bumpy so then it’s difficult to make good turns.”

Cuche said Innerhofer will be the man to beat on Saturday, pointing out that course conditions won’t change.

“It’s really bumpy. It’s going to stay the same until the race,” Cuche said, adding that he stood up during his run in order to preserve energy for Friday’s training. “It was to save a little bit of power for tomorrow, because it’s making me more tired than the super G from yesterday and not having a good time. But I think tomorrow I can push through. Innerhofer is so strong. That’s the favorite for the gold medal.”

Following his DNF after skiing off-course in Wednesday’s super G race, Canadian Erik Guay finished seventh in training on Thursday. He said the Kandahar is a different animal than he’s ever seen it – a far cry from the slope on which he won the super G race at World Cup finals last March.

“There’e s a lot of chatter to it – hard snow, a lot of bumps. It’s not my favorite course,” he said. “Actually … that’s not that true. It’s my favorite course, but the way they prepared it, its pretty challenging. Usually it’s nice, grippy snow here – firm and dry. They just went overboard and iced it and now it’s rattly and rock-hard everywhere. It’s turnier also than the other years. There’s some sections I came in expecting to be fine and had to chuck my skis sideways.”

There is a big right turn through a very narrow corridor about halfway down the men’s downhill course where racers come within about a half-meter of the fence. Guay expects the current snow conditions to make this area a hot spot for either making it or breaking it in Saturday’s race.

“That section has always been that narrow but with good snow, so you can come in arcing. Now it’s coming in and your skis are just bouncing all over the place,” he said. “I think a lot of guys were toning it down today. In the race, you expect jumps are going to be 10, 15 meters bigger, speeds are going to be higher … it’s going to be challenging.”

Click here for full results of Thursday’s men’s downhill training.

by Shauna Farnell/farnell@fisski.com