Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Cuche masters Birds Of Prey course

AP , BEAVER CREEK, COLORADO

Didier Cuche of Switzerland flies down the slope during the men's downhill training run at the FIS Ski World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: EPA

Didier Cuche of Switzerland mastered the exaggerated terrain on the Birds Of Prey course to post the fastest time in World Cup downhill training on Tuesday.

Cuche, who was runner-up in last year's downhill here, covered the rough, bumpy course in 1 minute, 42.76 seconds.

The US' Steven Nyman clocked the second-quickest time of 1:42.97 , while Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein was third with 1:43.05.

World Cup overall champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway crashed coming off the Golden Eagle jump and into a compression, sending him to the hospital with a cut and bruised face and lacerated leg.

Austria's Andreas Buder, who was third in Saturday's downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, also was injured in the same part of the course. He suffered a bruised heel and was expected to be out of action for three weeks.

"It was tough. Beaver Creek is always difficult and this year with less snow, every roll is bigger," Cuche said.

Though the upper half of the course was ready last month, race organizers scrambled to make snow to cover the bottom half because of warm temperatures.

Last week, crews frantically produced artificial snow on the colder upper section, before pushing it down to cover the lower half, where the layer covering the terrain is relatively thin.

"The snow is so thin, so the contour to the hill is there," Nyman said. "The terrain is much more abrupt and you have to work with that because it's like that all the way down the hill, as opposed to in the past, when there's been so much snow that it's been much smoother."

The Golden Eagle jump on the lower part of the course is particularly big this year and the compression -- or sudden dip -- that follows it troubled several skiers.

"It's very severe. I was sitting back, rolling down the windows and kicking my legs just to land it," said Nyman, describing his flailing motions as he tried to stay upright coming out of the dip.

Nyman and Buechel felt that the Golden Eagle jump was perhaps bigger than ever.

"I expected a smooth ride but it wasn't and it's rather fast," Buechel said. "Plus, since there's not a lot of snow, there's some nice terrain in it. And some turns are very icy and then it's very aggressive snow again so you have to find the line there. The jumps go very far."

The Swiss showed they will be a force with three skiers in the top 10. Ambrosi Hoffmann was fourth in 1:43.50 and Didier Defago seventh in 1:43.83.

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