By Lisa Antonucci
Austrian speed specialist Matthias Mayer took the top spot on Thursday in the second day of downhill training at the Birds of Prey Audi FIS World Cup race week at Beaver Creek. Mayer, who finished second in last week’s downhill in Lake Louise, finished with a time of 1:39.74 and sparked talk of the faster times to come on Saturday. Swiss racer Beat Feuz, who won the Lake Louise downhill, finished second with 1:40.40, followed by Austrian Hannes Reichelt with 1:40.56.
“The course is really quick today,” noted U.S. newcomer Sam Morse, who has run the Birds of Prey course at least six times as a forerunner but will make his first World Cup start here on Saturday. “We were seeing some of the fastest times ever recorded on this track today, so I’m super excited to see what the guys can do on race day. I’m looking forward to it.”
Morse, who finished 60th on Thursday with a time of 1:43.86, was one of seven Americans who participated in training Thursday. Bryce Bennett was fastest for the U.S. with 1:41.89, while veteran Steven Nyman – still undecided about his racing program this weekend as he charts his comeback from a knee injury last January – was 39th with a time of 1:43.03.
“It was a little bit more bumpy today, but nothing bad,” said Bennett, who finished 29th and 52nd at Beaver Creek in 2015 and 2014, respectively. “There are so many guys here this year … inevitably it’s going to get bumpy, but come race day, I’m sure the Talon crew is going to be doing everything they can and do an amazing job like they always do.”
Teammate Wiley Maple, who hails from nearby Aspen, brought a locals’ perspective to the day and praised the Birds of Prey course for its challenging terrain despite the lack of snowfall.
“It’s in great shape,” said Maple, who posted a time of 1:43.77. “The snow was way better today than yesterday – harder, a little bit bumpier and little faster. The track should be good for the next couple days, and it’s a lot of fun to be back in Beaver Creek.
“I just have to ski it a little cleaner, but you also have to be really aggressive the whole way down, looking for speed and attacking the course the whole time. Especially with the rattle, people tend to back off or get a little back seat and let the bumps push them, and you just got to stand over it and keep pushing.”
Race week continues Friday with the Super G. Racing begins at 10:45 a.m. MT.
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