It may have been bitterly cold on the hill but the excitement for the opening speed race of the 2010 – 2011 Audi FIS Downhill World Cup was red hot. New HEAD speedoholic, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, set out his stall for the new season with a commanding run down the Men’s Olympic Downhill course in winning the opening training run. Svindal followed up his excellent training run with and even faster run on race day to place second. With the race run in sunny but cold conditions the early starters struggled for line and speed. Yet the three men that stood on the podium at the end of the race started consecutively 18 through to 20, with Svindal the first of the three to set a time.
Best of the early racers was HEAD’s French racer, Johan Clarey who posted a smooth and fast time that had the better of all the racers starting around him. Clarey is a racer who likes the big courses and this was a great run by the Frenchman: smooth, fast and powerful. Not even Bode Miller could better the time of Clarey as he came down to place second, half a second back. Clarey had carried the speed through the two speed traps down the course to post second and third fastest speeds, the faster being at over 132kmh.
When Svindal came down from start number 18 and raised the bar in taking the lead, this was the start of the fireworks in terms of the overall race. Svindal has set his stall out in his first race on the HEAD Downhill skis. The big Norwegian used every trick in his armoury to carve clean turns and carry the speed across the flats that make up the Lake Louise course. Through the critical C curve, around where many of the coaches congregate, Svindal used his enormous strength to maximum advantage to place HEAD racers one and two at that time.
Mario Scheiber was next down. Scheiber posted fast split times down the course but lost time to Svindal’s speed in the run in and crossed the line with exactly the same time as the Norwegian. Michael Walchhofer started his final season of racing next and posted fast times down the length of the course; as he went on to win. Speaking after the race, Svindal agreed the conditions probably helped Walchhofer more than most. For Svindal this was his 30th World Cup career podium, the third time at Lake Louise. Ominously for the rest of the field, his other two podiums at Lake Louise were for wins in the Super G. For Clarey, this is the second best result of his career to date.
With one of the training runs having been cancelled and HEAD racers Svindal and Grugger having posted the fastest times in the first training run, the season is already looking bright for the Speedoholics on the Men’s tour. Four HEAD racers made it into the top ten lead by Svindal with Clarey in 5th, Bode Miller in 8th and Didier Cuche 9th. Hans Grugger took 17th and German Stephan Keppler placed 29th to add to the points won by HEAD racers.
1. Michael Walchhofer (Aut)
2. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) HEAD & Mario Scheiber (Aut)
5. Johan Clarey (FRA) HEAD
8. Bode Miller (USA) HEAD
9. Didier Cuche (SUI) HEAD
17. Hans Grugger (AUT) HEAD
29. Stephan Keppler (GER) HEAD