Downhillers worry about icy course in Bormio
December 27, 2008
BORMIO, Italy ” The bottom section of the Stelvio course is so hard and icy that even Bode Miller is wondering if he has the stamina to ski it.
Miller, who won the World Cup downhill here last year and took gold in both downhill and super G at the 2005 world championships on the Stelvio, said conditions this season are as challenging as he’s ever seen them.
“The top is bumpy, so you get tired, then the bottom is icy and dark and when it’s all in the shade like it is now you can’t see anything,” Miller said Saturday after placing 10th in the final training session ahead of Sunday’s race. “The bumps rattle you so much because it rained down here and it’s all ice.
“I feel pretty fatigued before this last pitch. Coming off San Pietro (the course’s biggest jump) the legs are burning. I have the fitness to make it no problem, but to execute the type of turns I like to make takes a little bit of extra power compared to some guys. Some guys are more on both feet. That makes it tough for me.”
Making things even tougher for Miller is that he still has a sore ankle and bruised ribs from a crash in Beaver Creek, Colo., earlier this month.
“The ankle is still a little bit touchy on this stuff because it’s so hard and bumpy,” Miller said.
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Miller finished second in the previous downhill in Val Gardena last weekend but the New Hampshire skier is still seeking his first victory this season after failing to finish six of his 13 races.
Michael Walchhofer, the Austrian who won back-to-back downhills here in 2006, led the final training session.
“Normally I’m not bad under these conditions, but it’s not fun to ski,” Walchhofer said.
The Stelvio is the only course on the World Cup circuit where skiers can see the finish from the start, even though at 2 miles, only the famed Lauberhorn in Wengen, Switzerland, is longer.
Nearly every skier was bent over at the knees in exhaustion after finishing their training runs, with running times lasting more than two minutes.
Naturally, Italian skiers said their home course suited them perfectly.
Werner Heel, Christof Innerhofer and Peter Fill finished 1-2-4 in Friday’s opening training session, and Heel was second Saturday.
“This is a real downhill. It’s not a course you go down on in a sled,” said Innerhofer, who was 12th Saturday after standing up out of his tuck before the finish.
Marco Buechel, the oldest skier in the field at 37, was 10th Friday and 27th Saturday.
“I like it. But the thing is, on the bottom part four factors come together,” Buechel said. “It’s dark, you’re so tired, it’s icy and it’s bumpy. Take one away and I would be happy. If it’s icy, dark and I’m tired and it’s not that bumpy, fine by me. All four things added up it’s too difficult for me, too scary.”
Steven Nyman of Provo, Utah, missed gates both days in training and said he won’t race Sunday due to back pain.
“I gave it a try today and it hurts,” Nyman said. “I want to prepare for the rest of the season. … It’s just stupid how icy and bumpy it is. It’s dangerous, but that’s part of ski racing.”
Another American, T.J. Lanning of Park City, Utah, crashed at high speed Friday and will miss the race with a sprained right knee and a bruised rib.
Besides Miller ” who races independently from the U.S. Ski Team ” the only Americans who will race are Marco Sullivan of Tahoe City, Calif.; Scott Macartney of Kirkland, Wash.; and Bryon Friedman of Park City, Utah.
Macartney had a nasty crash in Kitzbuehel, Austria, last season, and said this course ranks up with Kitzbuehel as the circuit’s most challenging.
“I actually gave it a little too much respect in some places, made a few mistakes,” Macartney said. “But I think I’ve got a good idea of how to attack it tomorrow.”
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