FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Garmisch: Kernen fastest in training as start order debate rages

Garmisch: Kernen fastest in training as start order debate rages{mosimage}GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – Bruno Kernen posted the fastest time in the men’s final training session Friday, earning himself an undesirable start number for the weekend’s World Cup downhill.

Kernen covered the famous 3,455-meter Kandahar course in 1 minute, 58.93 seconds. Italy’s Peter Fill was second in 1:59.08, while Andreas Buder of Austria crossed third in 1:59.45.

”It’s not really what I wanted, to be in front like that,” said Kernen, who will now start 30th in Saturday’s downhill. ”But at the moment, I can’t afford to brake. I need to build my confidence, and I need to know I can be fast.”

The final training session before a downhill determines the starting order for the race, with the top 30 finishers starting in reverse order. But the snow conditions are soft in many spots on the Kandahar course this year, meaning the surface is rutted and choppy for the later starters.

”This rule must urgently be abolished,” Hermann Maier said after finishing seventh in 1:59.87 and earning start No. 24 on race day. ”It makes everything not fun. At the start one already starts considering: where should I brake?”

In a tactical maneuver, many top skiers were braking on the final pitch to slow their time in order to have a better start number on race day.

Overall leader Benjamin Raich clocked the fourth-best time of 1:59.59.

”Having to brake or be slow to get a better start number does not make sense,” Raich said. ”Braking is not something a skier should have to do. It isn’t part of racing.”

Raich, an all-arounder who is stronger in the technical disciplines, said he would compete in the Olympic downhill next month if he were offered a chance.

Fritz Strobl, Maier and Michael Walchhofer have all secured spots on the Austrian Olympic downhill squad and only one berth remains.

Raich, Klaus Kroell, Andreas Schifferer and Christoph Gruber will all attempt to earn the last spot in Saturday’s downhill or next week in Chamonix, France, which is staging the last World Cup races before the Torino Games.

Gruber was 10th, while Kroell crossed 22nd, with Schifferer one spot behind him.

”I do not know how to brake and I don’t intend to learn,” Kroell said of the strategies played on the hill in every final training session.

Daron Rahlves of the United States was fifth in 1:59.71, but was not worried about starting 26th on race day.

”I think it doesn’t really matter. You still have to ski fast no matter where you start,” Rahlves said.

A super G is scheduled for Sunday.

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