Gruber fastest, Miller 13th in men’s downhill training |

Gruber fastest, Miller 13th in men’s downhill training

Graham Dunbar
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Bode Miller, of the United States, takes s a curve during training for the men's downhill race, at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Val d'Isere, France, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

VAL D’ISERE, France ” Christoph Gruber of Austria was fastest in a downhill training session Thursday at the World Championships, where racers were restricted for safety reasons on the steep and icy course.

Gruber clocked 2 minutes, 10.82 seconds on the full Face de Bellevarde course. Teammate Michael Walchhofer was second, 0.47 back, and Natko Zrncic-Dim of Croatia was third as snow and wind greeted racers out of the starting gate.

Bode Miller of the United States was 13th after being critical of the icy surface that resulted in a 12th-place finish in the super-G on Wednesday. Americans Erik Fisher and Ted Ligety were among 10 skiers who were disqualified during the training run.

Race organizers were anxious about skiers reaching high speeds on a cloudy day and raised a red flag at a left-hand turn into the final jump, instructing them to ease off by standing up through the closing section.

The downhill piste, used for the 1992 Albertville Olympics, begins at an altitude of 9,209 feet and drops 3,146 feet over its length of almost 2 miles.

Walchhofer, who leads the World Cup downhill standings, was the fastest of the day with a speed of 80 mph.

“I tried to have a good first run,” Walchhofer said. “It was for me to see how fast I can be on this slope. You have to take a little risk to go fast.”

Didier Cuche of Switzerland followed up his gold medal run in the super-G with the sixth-fastest time. Despite being seventh-fastest for the second straight day, Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein is no fan of the course.

“Basically, I don’t like it,” Buechel said. “Visibility was poor and everybody had to fight.”

Reigning downhill world champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was eighth, and Didier Defago of Switzerland was ninth. Defago won the two most recent World Cup downhills.

A second downhill training session is scheduled for Friday before the gold-medal race on Saturday.

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