Speed-season opener for the Swiss men - Preview

23 November 2010 15:03

The first training takes place tomorrow Wednesday before the races will get under way on Saturday. Lake Louise in the Canadian Rocky Mountains will host the first downhill of the winter. The start is at 20.30 GMT. The first super G of the season 2010/11 follows the day after at 19.00 GMT.


The men’s giant slalom season opener on the glacier of Soelden at the end of October fell victim to fog and had to be cancelled. Mid November the so far only men’s World Cup race was held in Levi, Finland. According to tradition the Alpine winter season will now really be launched in Lake Louise, Canada. For the past ten years the piste located in Banff National Park has been the scene of the first speed races of the season. From now on, there will be World Cups with weekly intervals.

With Didier Défago who tore his cruciate ligament in the left knee in September in training the Swiss team will be without its Olympic downhill gold medalist. Nevertheless, the team of head coach Martin Rufener starts out of a position of strength, thanks to Didier Cuche and Carlo Janka. Both each clinched three downhill wins last season, together they won six out of eight downhill races.


Cuche and Janka with good memories of Lake Louise


Cuche is also a defending champion in the disciplines’ World Cup. The 36-year-old Neuchâtel achieved that, especially also thanks to last year’s success in Lake Louise. With his win in November 2009 the Swiss was able to claim the first spot on the podium as the only second Swiss after Franz Heinzer in 1991.

In addition, team-mate Janka travels to Lake Louise with good memories after the Grisons became second two years ago starting with bib number 65. Janka landed the first podium of his career in Lake Louise after which he was pretty much unstoppable. In the meantime, the Swiss is now World Champion, Olympic Champion and World Cup overall winner.


The Swiss did not only do well in the World Cup but they were also able to shine on the European Cup level with Cornel Zueger (winner of downhill standings), Ami Oreiller (third in the downhill standings) and Christian Spescha (European Cup overall champion). These three will all be fix starters in the World Cup this season. This results in the Swiss having a full dozen of athletes at the start of the downhill in Lake Louise. No other nation, not even the Austrians, have the same quota.


Daniel Albrecht is taking it step by step


Thirteen Swiss athletes will be participating in the downhill training but there will hardly be any internal time trials -unless the athlete whose return to the World Cup circuit is being so eagerly anticipated, would go beyond himself and excel greatly. Daniel Albrecht is back skiing a World Cup downhill track for the first time since his horror crash on 22nd January 2009. For the time being Albrecht plans to only make three training runs. "Whether I ski the race, is still to be determined. In downhill I still make too many mistakes, "says Albrecht self-critical, "I do well in certain sections but then mess up in other parts of the run." Additionally, the last few days of training in Nakiska were not all that great for the Swiss team. Delayed snow, snow guns on at full speed and fog disrupted the trainings.


Albrecht does not want to stir up excessive expectations. He sees his starts in the downhill trainings simply as another important step on the road of recovery."Right now, it seems unrealistic that I am racing on Saturday. After all, I have never done particularly well here in Lake Louise even before my accident". Nevertheless, it can clearly be felt that the Valais would like to do more than just train.


It is also unclear whether the current condition of Ambrosi Hoffmann permits him to race the downhill on Saturday. The injury in the lower leg, which the skier from Davos suffered at the end of September, turns out to be quite tedious. He is still very much hampered by it.