Training in the books; Cuche sparkles
BEAVER CREEK – After a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, the men’s World Cup got a training run in Wednesday at Beaver Creek, so Birds of Prey 2011 is officially good to go.
Regardless of today’s weather for a final scheduled training run at 11 a.m. – the forecast is for snow and high winds – there will be a downhill on Friday and the skies look good for that.
One guy everyone might want to keep an eye on is Switzerland’s Didier Cuche, who topped the field in Wednesday’s training with a time of 1 minute, 45.54 seconds. While training is not a guarantee of what will happen come race day, it’s pretty hard to ignore what the 37-year-old has been doing recently.
Last year’s downhill discipline champion and second in the overall points, Cuche has started the speed season with a win at the Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill Saturday and second-place finish in Sunday’s super-G. Throw in five medals in the last four years at Birds of Prey and Wednesday’s good run and Cuche feels pretty fine here.
“The fun is when you ski a hill like that – sunny, good snow, pushing hard, some good turns, some bad turns, nice jumps and coming to the finish, seeing that you were fast,” Cuche said. “Training is always fun when you have no pain and you are not struggling (with) something. Then when you repeat that in the race it’s a perfect day.”
Emphasizing the caveat that it is training, the leader board looked pretty impressive Wednesday nonetheless.
Christof Innerhofer was one-tenth of a second behind Cuche in second place. The fun-loving Italian is coming off a great 2010-11 season, including a three-medal showing at Worlds at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, – gold in super-G, silver in the super-combined and bronze in the downhill.
He is still shaking off the effects of a training crash in Europe three weeks ago. Innerhofer was off skis for 10 days and originally didn’t think he was going to make the North American swing of the World Cup. He struggled up in Lake Louise last weekend with a 23rd in the downhill and a DNF in the super-G, so Wednesday was good for him.
“I had tried just to push because last week was not so nice for me,” Innerhofer said. “I know that I am not perfect with my head. Every time, I have a little bit of pain. With concentration, I have a little problem. I must push to have confidence, to know that I can go with the best. … I’m happy with that.”
Austria’s Hannes Reichelt clocked a 1:45.65 to take third, and he’s no stranger to success at Beaver Creek. The first two of his five career wins came at Birds of Prey in super-G in 2005 and 2007.
“It was a good training run,” he said. “In the upper part, I think I (went) very fast. In the bottom, I had some mistakes. Tomorrow, I have to do better.”
Reichelt said he was a little too straight in his line in the lower half of the course.
Bode Miller was the top American in fourth and he has his own chapter of Birds of Prey success with three wins from 2004-06 with six medals overall.
The day started slowly with course holds for continued maintenance. Originally scheduled for 11 a.m., the proceedings finally started a little after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday’s area of concern was The Abyss, a compression just before Golden Eagle Jump, which is the second-to-last of the course.
After work around The Pumphouse on the upper half of the course wiped out Tuesday’s training run, there was a little anxiety about completing the required training for a downhill Friday.
“It’s been great weather, great conditions,” said Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal said. “The snow, the course is in awesome condition, so it was kind of weird to have training canceled (Tuesday).”
Svindal went on to say that he agreed with the decision, but given his nice resume here – three wins, he’s ready to go.
“I know this is a hill I can be fast on,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.