Franz tops downhill training run ahead of Miller
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) — Bode Miller’s return to the slopes of St. Moritz promises to be a good one.
The American veteran had a good opening downhill training run in difficult conditions at the venue of the 2003 World Championships, when he won three medals.
The men’s World Cup hasn’t raced in St. Moritz since then and Miller is one of the few active skiers to have ever competed in the Swiss resort. Miller won gold in the giant slalom and the combined and silver in the Super-G at the 2003 worlds.
But the American said that may not be a big advantage as he doesn’t remember much from the course 11 years ago.
“It was so long ago,” the 36-year-old Miller said after finishing second in Thursday’s training run. “I used to remember everything, maybe I am getting too old.”
Miller trailed Max Franz of Austria by just .03 seconds.
“There a lot of blind turns, there are no trees so you have no reference points. Everything is kind of grey and white and it makes it tough to be aggressive,” Miller said. “You come over all those knolls and you have no idea where you’re going. I missed a lot of turns.”
Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s giant slalom are the last races before the Sochi Olympics and Miller thinks there are some parallels between the courses.
“It’s not a very exciting downhill, but in terms of gliding, it’s good practice and warm-up for the Olympics too,” he said. “We had Kitzbuehel, which was good to test your technical ability and the ability to be more dynamic. And now here it’s definitely more gliding, more subtle, more touch and feeling and that’s important for Sochi.”
A lot of snow fell on the course overnight and organizers were forced to lower the start. The weekend events replace the races originally slated for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, which were canceled because of a lack of snow.
Here, the opposite may be the problem, with more snow forecast into the weekend.
Franz covered the 2,274-meter (2,487-yard) long Corviglia course in 1 minute, 37.72 seconds, with Miller .03 seconds behind. Matthias Mayer of Austria was third, .16 back, with Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Canada in fourth, .23 adrift.
Franz shared third place in the super-G in Kitzbuehel last weekend, when Miller was second. Miller was also third in the downhill in Kitzbuehel.
Another skier who competed in St. Moritz in 2003 is Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, the overall World Cup leader this season who clocked the 13th fastest time in training.
“It’s been a long time since I was here 11 year ago,” said Svindal, who was fifth in the 2003 giant slalom. “I did recognize some of the course of course but it snowed a lot last night and it was kind of dark. There was loose snow on the course and you couldn’t see it before you hit it. It was a difficult training run.
“A lot of guys were missing gates, it’s difficult to make it perfect when the snow is changing.”