Mother Nature lends hand to late starters in Haus DH training
HAUS IM ENNSTAL, Austria - The late starters in Thursday's downhill training run in Haus im Enstaal got a rare taste of ... if not victory, then at least the confidence that comes with leading a training run.
French racer Marion Rolland led for most of the run, which began with a thick fog and huge snowflakes but ended with clear skies and even a bit of sun, giving the racers at the back of the starting pack a distinctive advantage.
So it was Norwegian racer Lotte Smiseth Sejersted, who, starting No. 63, had the fastest time Thursday, finishing in 1 minute, 41.22 seconds. British racer Chemmy Alcott was next in 1:41.37 wearing bib No. 47 and was followed by Austrian Regina Mader (1:41.55), who started No. 54 and German Viktoria Rebensburg (1:41.91), who, wearing bib No. 67, was the second to last racer down the course.
There was a short break after the 45th starter during which crews reworked the course. It was then that the snow stopped and the sky cleared.
It was then that racer No. 46, American Chelsea Marshall, came down and took the lead from Rolland.
"I thought I put together a pretty good run," Marshall said. "There was a TV break after (racer) 45. They were putting more dye out. It stopped snowing and the light got really good so it was a good opportunity to have a clean run."
In a sport like downhill racing in which the winning time is typically determined by just hundredths of a second, factors like good light and a freshly slipped course help tremendously.
While the fresh falling snow slowed the course down significantly, visibility was OK, even for the first 25 racers down.
"The visibility, even with the snow it's not bad," said Rolland, who led for most of training run but ended up eighth. "Only, it's not really fast. With the snow on the slope, if you lose the right way, you lose time."
Lindsey Vonn was also leading after her run (she started 16th) but ended up 10th. She said she still took things gingerly in the start gate with her injured left hand but plans to give it her all - pain or no pain - in Friday's race.
"I definitely pushed it a little harder today," she said. "I made a pretty big mistake on the last right-footed turn. I didn't quite push as hard out of the start again today, but I'm saving all of my arm strength for tomorrow."
Austrian Maria Holaus, who was in the top three for most of the race but finished ninth, said there was a lot of fresh snow collecting on the course during the first 30 starters. She said that regardless of how weather changes throughout the race, the secret to speed on the Haus course, which is one of the flatter, slower courses on the World Cup circuit, is to pick a line and stick with it.
"You have to be fast from the top to the bottom ... everywhere," Holaus said. "You are not allowed to lose the line. You have to be straight to be fast, that's the most important thing. You are always losing speed on this course, it's sometimes very flat. So you need to stay on the line."
by Shauna Farnell