Switzerland’s Gut fastest during training
World Cup Skiing
Women’s downhill training, 10:45 a.m.
Women’s downhill training, 10:45, a.m.
Women’s downhill, 10:45, a.m.
Women’s super-G, 10:45 a.m.
Women’s giant slalom, 9:45 and 12:45 p.m.
BEAVER CREEK — After her first training run on the Raptor course on Tuesday at Beaver Creek, Austria’s Anna Fenninger looked like she was doing tai chi.
She stood at the side of the finish area, extended her arms and turned them left and right at assorted times. The 24-year-old Austrian was rerunning Raptor in her mind.
“Yeah, you have the feeling in you and you have to do it again,” Fenninger said. “It’s easier for tomorrow and the next time to go.”
Three days of downhill training for races have become standard for Beaver Creek World Cup events because early-season snow has a tendency to knock out a day or two of the practice runs, and International Ski Federation rules mandate at least one preliminary run to hold a downhill at a site. Normally, three full days of training becomes monotonous, but not for the women at the Nature Valley Raptor Ladies’ World Cup Week.
With a brand-new course, the more training, the merrier.
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“It’s the first training here and nobody knows the slope,” Switzerland’s Lara Gut said. “It’s like trying and see what’s going to happen. But it’s a really nice course, and I think it’s going to be fun to be racing here (at the 2015 Worlds). Now, I just have to improve my skiing. Yeah, I was fast, but I didn’t ski good. If I race like that, I have no chance for the race.”
And Gut actually recorded the fastest time of the day at 1 minute, 43.42 seconds.
Getting to know you
The U.S. women got a sneak peak at Raptor last spring, but the racecourse is pretty much new for everyone. Ski racers are creatures of habit, building up encyclopedic knowledge during their careers of regular stops on the tour. Talk to veterans like American Julia Mancuso, Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch or Slovenia’s Tina Maze, and they can take you meter-by-meter through courses like Val d’Isere, France, or Cortina, Italy.
There is no “book” on the Raptor — yet.
“It was difficult,” said Fenninger, who was second with a time of 1:43.90. “Every time, if a course is new, you’re a little nervous before the first run. It was today, a little nervous, but I like this course. It’s not easy to know every turn exactly the first time. We have three training runs and that’s nice.”
Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather was third, 0.58 seconds off Gut’s pace.
Training should always be taken with a grain of salt, but a Gut-Fenninger-Weirather podium would certainly not be out of the realm of possibility come Friday. The trio has 10 World Cup wins combined, and finished fifth, eighth and sixth, respectively, on the downhill points list last winter.
That said, different racers take different approaches to training runs.
“On the one side, you want to be a bit careful the first time,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “But on the other side, you have to push because it’s difficult. It’s tight turns and steep hills. You can’t go down just easily. You have to find the middle way.”
Keep in mind that the women’s World Cup stop at Beaver Creek is also the first speed event of the season, and different athletes have different agendas. There are a bunch of racers like Maze, the defending World Cup champion, who have been training technical events (giant slalom and slalom) exclusively. Maze, who was 14th Tuesday, was racing on downhill skis for the fist time since an offseason camp in Portillo, Chile. Gut won the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, but skipped the slalom in Levi, Finland, two weeks ago. She has spent the past two weeks training downhill at Copper Mountain.
Americans in the mix
A bunch of the media talk on Tuesday was about the one who is not racing, naturally — Lindsey Vonn. She re-injured her right knee last week during training at Copper. She originally hurt that knee in a crash at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, back in February. While it’s a disappointment for her and the fans that she is out this week, life does go on for the tour.
“Of course, it’s always bad to lose somebody,” Gut said. “If Julia (Mancuso) wouldn’t be here or Maria (Hoefl-Riesch), it’s always sad. But it’s the World Cup. It’s not like a tennis game where two people are playing.”
Leanne Smith topped the Americans in 17th. Stacey Cook was 21st, followed by Laurenne Ross (30th), Jacqueline Wiles (31st), Julia Ford (40th), and Mancuso (48th) among others. Wiles, a 21-year-old from Oregon, was one of the day’s big bib-jumpers. She was wearing No. 58. Canada’s Larisa Yurkiw, however, was the biggest bib-jumper, racing the No. 55 into sixth place.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.