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Bormio downhill earns high praise from World Cup skiers

Bormio downhill earns high praise from World Cup skiers

International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper calls the Stelvio course the "Scala of skiing" after Milan's famous opera house.
At 3.270 kilometers (2.03-miles), the Stelvio trails only Wengen, Switzerland, for the longest course on the World Cup circuit.
Unlike Wengen, though, the Stelvio bumps and jerks skiers from start to finish. The undersides of athlete's skis remain completely attached to the snow for only 12 seconds of the average 120-second run. The rest of the time, skiers are on their edges changing direction and executing turns and jumps.
It's also the only downhill course where skiers can peer all the way down to the finish from the starting gate.
"This might be the best downhill in the world," Austrian great Hermann Maier said ahead of Saturday's annual race, before adding a qualifier for his home country's most renowned downhill. "Officially, Kitzbuehel is the best."
Maier hasn't won a race in nearly two years and finished 12th in Friday's final training session. He won his first World Cup downhill here in 1997, then also won in 1998.
Michael Walchhofer is Austria's current top threat. He won back-to-back downhills here last year and enters on a two-race winning streak that has him atop this season's discipline standings.
"I'm in great shape and the course is perfect for me," Walchhofer said.
About 40 fans from Walchhofer's hometown of Altenmarkt are planning to make a six-hour drive to see the race.
Walchhofer said he might not use his top pair of skis _ the ones he used to win in Val Gardena two weeks ago _ because he is worried about ruining them on a rock like at the 2005 World Championships here, when he finished third in the downhill behind Americans Bode Miller and the now-retired Daron Rahlves.
Miller broke away from the U.S. team to train and race on his own this season and is still seeking his first victory.
Three other U.S. skiers _ Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and Scott Macartney _ have posted podium finishes in downhill this season.
"If we make a clean run and we ski well, good things will happen," said Nyman, who was thrown off course and missed a couple of gates in his final training run.
Besides the downhill, Miller also won the super-G at the 2005 worlds here and this is one of his favorite courses.
He said it "can be" the most demanding course.
"It's not so bad this year as it has been, but it's tough," Miller said after placing seventh in training.
Andrej Jerman of Slovenia led the final training session ahead of Klaus Kroell and Erik Guay. Guay was fastest in Thursday's opening session.
Guay also led the final training in Val Gardena earlier this month, but finished fourth in the race.
"I haven't learned how to transfer it to the race yet," the Canadian said. "I have to learn how to save that extra 10-15 percent for the race like the veterans do."
Guay has only raced once in Kitzbuehel, but agrees with Maier that this course is more challenging.
"This is a harder course right now. From the top your legs are burning more. There's a lot of rough terrain, big jumps," Guay said. "It's got everything.
"It's demanding physically, especially. There are a lot of guys who have speed up top, then they start to fade slowly as their lactic acid begins to build up," Guay added. "You have to learn to ski with your legs that tired and just lean on the front of your boots."
Guay was headed for the gym after his training run.
"It's important after the (run) to do a lot of biking and get that lactic acid flushed out and get fresh for tomorrow," he said. "But it adds up every day. I'm already feeling more tired today than yesterday."
At 36, Marco Buechel is the oldest skier on the circuit and still among the top downhillers. He was second in Thursday's training and eighth Friday.
"I don't feel good. I was just fighting to survive. My legs were burning," he said, adding that this course doesn't compare to Wengen.
"Wengen is hard for the body, but you can ski with feeling," Buechel said. "Here there is no feeling whatsoever _ just pain."
Clear skies and below-freezing temperatures _ perfect racing conditions _ are forecast for Saturday.


Updated : 2021-02-25 22:45 GMT+08:00