Walchhofer fastest at Beaver Creek downhill training

03 December 2009 21:06

Men's World Cup downhill training continued Thursday (Dec. 3) in Beaver Creek, Colorado. It was the first time the racers got a look at this season's entire Birds of Prey course as fresh snow yesterday forced organizers to postpone the training run and shorten the course.

The course was buffed and ready to go today in all its glory as the snowfall cleared and temperatures dropped well below freezing, hardening the course. Some racers wore tape on their faces to combat the bitter temperatures.

Austrian Michael Walchhofer (2007 downhill winner here) lead all racers with a time of 1:45.36. Lake Louise downhill winner Swiss Didier Cuche had the second-fastest time with 1:45.64, followed by teammate Didier Defago in third with a time of 1:46.42.

"The base is in really great shape, hard, perfect preparation," said Walchhofer. "It's good for Schmalzl (FIS downhill course setter) that he put out the gates a little bit around the pump house, it's a little bit slower because on this slope you become so fast that I think it was very clever of him. I think the last part was perfect but in the middle I really need to do better for Saturday."

After yesterday's shortened run, racers were hard at work finding their lines. "I'm almost ready, I have to watch the last 30 seconds, there I was too much on the right leg," said Cuche. "It think I have to tighten some lines but I was quite happy about the run."

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, double winner here last year in both the downhill and the super-G, as well as third-place finisher in the giant slalom, had a great run finishing fourth. Last season's overall World Cup title holder, he is working his way back up the rankings after a leg bruise, suffered in October, has slowed him down in the season's early races.

"It feels a lot better than just half of it," said Svindal about skiing the entire course. "It's a good course for sure, the top part is my favorite part so I'm glad we got to that today."

As far as his leg goes, Svindal says he is well on his way to being 100%. "This is the best I'll skied in six week. For downhill it feels very good, a little bit in the jumps and landings but not too bad," he said, "I tried skiing slalom today, and that feels okay I would say."

American Bode Miller, who has won three times on this hill, lead the home team in fifth place (1:46.79). Steven Nyman, who has claimed two podiums in Beaver Creek and was first out of the gate today, followed Miller in eighth place with a time of 1:47.00, tying Liechtenstein's Marco Buechel.

"It's really turnie, you just can't let them go downhill like you used to," said Nyman of the course that has under gone significant changes since last year. "It's fun, of course, with the jumps and everything, but it's different than it's ever been set. I really didn't tuck much at all down the pitch, I was just out of control and trying to make the gates."

World Cup competition in Beaver Creek will kick off Friday (Dec. 4) with a super combined race. A downhill will be held the following day (Dec. 5) and finally a giant slalom on Dec. 6.

By Eric Williams, www.skiracing.com