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Wengen: Erik Guay wins second training run; Bode Miller third

Wengen: Erik Guay wins second training run; Bode Miller thirdErik Guay of Canada is leading the second training run for the Lauberhorn downhill after 60 out of 100 racers have started their way down the World Cup’s longest course. Saturday’s race will be the 76th annual running of the race.

Bode Miller was the top American in the run, as he was in the first training run the day before. The American did not speak to the media, but he plans to make a public statement later this afternoon about the recent controversy surrounding comments he made about skiing and alcohol.

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Today Miller finished third, 0.47 seconds back, despite standing up in the final turns and deliberately dumping speed. Daron Rahlves, who is seeking the downhill title this year, did the same and finished 15th (after 60 racers).

On Friday the men will race a super combined, and on Sunday they will race slalom.

Steve Nyman, the 2002 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year, is running the storied Lauberhorn for the first time. He collapsed in the finish, exhausted by the 2.8 miles of tucking and turns. The course is so long that many skiers are tired by the mid-point, but must stay alert and agile for the high speed, wide sweeping turns and big jumps in the last quarter of the run.

By the time racers reach the finish, their ears might pop: they will have dropped a total of 3,363 feet of elevation. In fact, the elevation at the finish is a fairly thin-aired 4,816 feet above sea level.

The track is in pristine shape this season after organizers injected much of it with water (the snow had been too dry several weeks ago). Hermann Maier said it’s the best condition he’s ever seen the course.

The Lauberhorn downhill, a tradition since 1930, is a national institution in Switzerland so popular that it often commands uninterrupted television coverage. Many Swiss citizens could name the Swiss downhillers who have won the race (the most recent being Bruno Kernen, who won in 2003).

Guay is having an excellent season, and could become the first Canadian to win the Lauberhorn downhill since Ken Read in 1980.

‘I just went through it like normal’ said Guay. ‘I still had some in reserve. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be first.’

The last American to win the Lauberhorn downhill was Kyle Rassussen in 1995. Bill Johnson won it in 1984. Rahlves was second behind Stephan Eberharter in 2003.

This week Rahlves and Miller are racing on new Atomic skis with distinctive graphics that won’t be officially unveiled until Kitzbuehel, which comes next week.

The record time down the whole Lauberhorn course was set in 1997, when Kristian Ghedina of Italy covered the distance in 2 minutes, 24.23 seconds (for comparison’s sake, it took Toni Sailer 3:21.6 to set the record in 1956).

‘It’s not that we’re worse now’ said Kjetil Andre Aamodt on Thursday, explaining why no one had broken Ghedina’s record. ‘It’s much turnier now before and after the Haneggschuss.

It is also an extremely dangerous downhill. In 1991, a young Gernot Reinstadler was killed in a terrible accident here. The trauma of that event was captured in reporter Mike Wilson’s cult-classic ski racing book, Right on the Edge of Crazy.

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