Matthias Mayer, Beat Feuz fastest in final WC downhill training at Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — It’s true that training runs often do not reflect what will happen on race day, but on Thursday the training was quite a bit faster.
Downhill training runs, the necessary prequel to any downhill race, took place for the second day in a row at the FIS Birds of Prey World Cup venue on Thursday, with Austria’s Matthias Mayer and Switzerland’s Beat Feuz taking the top spots.
Mayer was the only racer to crack the 1-minute, 40-second mark, making him about 2.5 seconds faster than Wednesday’s training leader, Frenchmen Adrien Theaux. Theaux bested his Wednesday time on Thursday, but not by enough to crack into the top three spots. He skied the course in 1:41:01 and finished fifth in training.
Aspen’s Wiley Maple said the snow on Thursday was in better shape than Wednesday.
“(It was) harder, a little bit bumpier and little faster,” Maple said. “The track should be good for the next couple days.
“There’s a lot less terrain than usual, up on the top even, and just all the jumps are a lot smaller so people aren’t having to reel it in, kinda, before the jumps and stay on line as much, especially like Screech Owl (jump) obviously and Golden Eagle. You can kind of ski straight into Golden Eagle then do a little press and same with The Abyss and Harrier (jump).”
The Nyman Question
The question on the minds of many was “Will Steven Nyman race on Saturday?” — a question that was not answered until a news conference Thursday night at Beaver Creek. He is not racing during Saturday’s downhill because he needs a little more time to get ready from a knee injury sustained last season.
“My approach to skiing right now is I don’t want to kick out of the gate unless I can be competitive,” Nyman said. “And to be competitive, I have to be fully confident in my abilities, and to race downhill, when you’re not fully confident in your abilities, is kind of dumb.”
Nyman said one of the racers to look out for on Saturday will be Italy’s Dominik Paris, who finished 17th in Thursday’s training.
“Everybody thinks he’s going to win the downhill title, everybody thinks he has the potential to do that in super-G as well,” Nyman said. “I think he has the abilities. He’s a big boy, he’s thick this year. Momentum is a big thing in our sport … he has that momentum.”
‘MOST FUN TRACK’
Bryce Bennett was the top-finishing American on Thursday, finishing 15th and shaving more than 3 seconds off of his Wednesday time.
Travis Ganong, who finished sixth on Wednesday with a 1:43:04, improved his time by about a second on Thursday but dropped down to 19th.
Ganong said the course is skiing perfectly.
“This is the most fun track we get to ski every year, it’s always just so much fun,” Ganong said.
But the track is skiing a bit differently than when he raced on it in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, where he won the silver medal in the downhill. It was a detail Ganong noticed right away in Wednesday’s training run.
“For the World Champs, they had more snow, so they could build a bunch of rollers and terrain, and the jumps were bigger,” Ganong said. “Now, it’s just more mellow and forgiving.”
American Sam Morse agreed.
“The lack of snow makes it sort of interesting, because it sort of pronounces some of the actual earthwork terrain underneath,” Morse said Wednesday. “So the jumps aren’t as built up because those are built out of snow, but a lot of the micro terrain is a lot more pronounced this year.”
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.