Last April’s training camp did not prove to be a huge advantage for the American girls in the first downhill training day at Beaver Creek. Results for the members of the U.S. speed team were something short of their best, with Leanne Smith leading the charge in 17th. Stacey Cook wasn’t far behind in 21st, followed by Laurenne Ross in 30th.
The U.S. B-Team got a couple solid results from the back of the pack: Jacqueline Wiles made the jump up to 31st from a start position of 58, and Julia Ford finished 40th starting from 60th.
Lara Gut, carrying momentum from her win in Soelden, was the clear winner at the inaugural running of Raptor, besting runner-up Anna Fenninger of Austria by almost half a second. Tina Weirather rounded out the top three, 0.58 second back.
“I prefer to start here than in Lake Louise,” said Gut after the run. “For me, it’s tough to start in Lake Louise because it’s always so flat. (Beaver Creek) is something like Altenmarkt because it’s turny and it’s like the slope; it’s not just the course-setting. It’s also something (like) Val d’Isere from the World Championship, but this is even more complete.”
For Anna Fenninger, not knowing the course didn’t seem to be much of a problem, but it definitely changed her approach, she said, spending more time and effort memorizing key sections.
“It was good for first run,” said Fenninger. “It was difficult (not knowing the course). If a course is new, you’re a little nervous. I was today a little nervous. It’s not easy to know every turn the first time, but we have three training runs and I think that’s enough. … It’s one of the hardest in our women’s World Cup.”
Smith, the top American, was happy with her run, saying she hit the line and it’s nice to know where she’s stacking up. The Granite Stater is not planning on making any major tactical changes, but certainly that’s something she will talk about with coaches, she said.
“I think there are things that I did well and things I need to clean up,” said Smith. “Of course, it feels a little different compared to our previous training runs. In April, we were just checking things out. But I’ll tell you, it was nice to know how some of those sections are going to run — to know that on Peregrine pitch, you’re going to have to give it a lot of width and be up on the blue line and be tight on the entrance of that gate.”
Julia Mancuso, who did not train on hill with her teammates in the spring, finished 48th, but said the advantage to running the course in advance is more of a psychological leg up than anything else.
“(The course) kind of has everything. It’s fast, like a lot of the switches are quick and there’s a lot of technical turns and intimidating sections,” said Mancuso. “(The set) is actually really good. It seems really controlled when you’re up there, but the way the snow conditions are and the way it’s set with the hill is really manageable. You can go pretty fast. … There are a couple really strong, big left-footers that kind of weave between the trees because there’s not a lot of distance going in and you’re kind of making a 90 degree turn.”
Mancuso said the Beaver Creek track, compared to Lake Louise where the ladies typically get their speed season rolling, is a nice “jumpstart” into the winter.
Race Director for Speed Events Markus Mayr, who is filling in for an ill Jan Tischhauser setting the course this week, said it’s a challenge to set a course on a completely new hill: “There were a couple of things last year that forced us to have really good speed control. There were no A-nets on. The safety installations were not World Cup ready. Out of these tests, we saw that the hill was very challenging, very steep pitches. It’s going to be speed control this year as well, but with a little more flow.”
Mayr said the goal is to achieve the 2015 World Championship set this week, but adjustments could be made with feedback from athletes and coaches.
Results — Downhill Training Day 1
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|15||22||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:44.84|
|34||18||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:46.05|
|54||50||298084||AGERER Lisa Magdalena||1991||ITA||1:47.66|
|71||75||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:52.00|