Aksel Lund Svindal wins second Lake Louise training runAksel Lund Svindal of Norway won Thursday’s training run at Lake Louise, beating out local favorite Erik Guay by just one hundredth of a second on the course where the World Cup speed season begins this weekend. The men will race downhill on Saturday and super G on Sunday.
The top American finisher was Daron Rahlves, who finished 0.53 seconds off the pace. Last year’s winner of both races at Lake Louise, Bode Miller, was ninth after dragging his hip on the snow four times, he said.
Justin Johnson of Park City, Utah, had his second solid run of the week, finishing 13th (between Hermann Maier and Antoine Deneriaz). The 28-year-old Utahn finished 10th in the previous day’s run.
“The guys are moving along pretty well,” U.S. men’s head coach Phil McNichol said. “Bode’s definitely working on some things, improving his tactics and race plan, definitely putting these three training days to good use … and ‘D’ [Rahlves] hasn’t had the best of luck up here, but he’s figuring things out, too and I’m sure he’ll be rolling Saturday.”
It was sunny and cold throughout the run the second of three scheduled for this week. Tailwinds aided several racers. Athletes arrived in the finish raving about the conditions at the Canadian resort, saying the snow is smooth and the relative lack of it accentuates the terrain, making the slope more challenging than in years past.
Guenter Hujara, the FIS race director, said Wednesday night that the snow is only 5 centimeters deep on parts of the track. He pleaded with athletes and coaches to stay out of the race line during warm-up and inspection.
The other Americans in the race were farther down the results sheet. Marco Sullivan finished 27th (1.58 seconds back), Steve Nyman 28th (+1.62), Scott Macartney 36th (+1.82), Chris Beckmann (+2.29), Kevin Francis 59th (+2.71) and Erik Fisher 63rd (2.88).
Francis and Fisher are in a battle to qualify for the team’s final downhill start position. Their results in Friday’s training run will determine which one gets a bib.
Lasse Kjus, Didier Defago, Andreas Schifferer and Finlay Mickle each won splits on the course, which took Svindal just under 1 minute, 40 seconds to complete.
Despite the lack of snow, McNichol and DH/SG head coach “Johno” McBride agreed organizers have done a sterling job in preparing the course. “They’ve been working hard on the track,” McBride said, “and with the limited snow they’ve had, it’s a super job; it’ll be a shorter course for us, about a minute-and-40 or so for the top guys, and it’ll be quite a ride.”