Vail’s Vonn on top in downhill training
ASPEN The snow here may be forgiving, but don’t be deceived: Aspen’s downhill is relentless. Such was the prevailing notion Wednesday when the world’s top female skiers took their first turns on Ruthie’s in the first of two scheduled training days prior to Friday’s race. “This course has a little bit of everything,” U.S. Ski Teamer Kaylin Richardson remarked. “You have to use all of your bag of tricks.”
Lindsey Vonn’s bag of tricks included an impromptu acrobatic display on the technical bottom section. The 23-year-old, who currently leads the World Cup downhill standings by virtue of her win last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta – her fourth in as many years there – took the wrong line into a left-footed compression near Strawpile, caught an edge and “started going the wrong way down the hill on one ski.”Vonn, who is nursing a sore hip sustained in a fall in Sunday’s super G in Lake Louise, averted further injury and, coincidentally, wound up posting the day’s fastest run. She finished in 1 minute, 34.07 seconds, .35 seconds ahead of Austria’s Nicole Hosp. Italy’s Elena Fanchini (1:34.44) was third. “There were three really big left turns that I didn’t ski that well,” Vonn said. “I started to turn too early and slid into them. The course is tight and technical, kind of like a super G.” Aspen’s unique combination of undulations and terrain changes are a far cry from Lake Louise, which American racer Stacey Cook jokingly deemed a “meathead” downhill because of its propensity for hard snow and breakneck speeds.It was clear Wednesday that even the most tenured of World Cup competitors will need to adjust.”Downhill is tough because you never know how fast it’s going to be or how the snow is,” said Sweden’s Anja Paerson, a two-time overall champion. “The jumps are bigger than I thought they were going to be.
“There’s going to be a lot of mistakes.”Here, strong technical skiing is as big a necessity as gliding. Knowing when to attack and what to expect will be imperative, American Julia Mancuso said. “There aren’t that many flat sections so you have to charge and go for it when you can, which is one of my strengths,” said Mancuso, who was third in last year’s final downhill standings and finished sixth Wednesday. “There are a lot of places where you have to be patient and stick to your line as you drive down the hill.”Richardson, a Minnesota native, couldn’t quite nail the correct line and, despite negotiating the middle portion cleanly, wound up in a tie for 41st out of 64. “If I could figure out the line, this could be a great course for me,” the 23-year-old said. “I killed the middle part, and I’m looking forward to seeing the video. On the other parts, the video may be a little painful.”There’s always something coming at you, so you have to be adaptable. … There’s nothing up there that frightens me, so I have to go for it and be smart and see what happens. The more downhills I do, the more prepared I feel.”
American Stacey Cook has proven she can excel on a “meathead” course; she finished fourth in Lake Louise last season, her best result ever on the World Cup circuit. She’s versatile, too. Cook finished 14th in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, last season on a technical track Cook said reminds her of Aspen. There’s no room for error Friday, Cook said. Because the course dictates skiing intelligently and meticulously rather than recklessly, pulling ahead or making up time will be difficult. She’s excited about the challenge.”It’s non-stop in your face,” Cook said, pausing to look uphill. “It has all the elements … if you’re two heartbeats behind on the technical bottom section, you’re not going to make it. “It’ll definitely be a challenge, but I think it suits our team well.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.