BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Swiss racer Beat Feuz has no doubt why he wound up on top — the downhill race was moved from the top.
Given the weather conditions, organizers elected to start the race from a reserve spot lower on the hill.
Feuz found the ideal line through difficult conditions to win a World Cup downhill race Friday. He finished in a time of 1 minute, 13.59 seconds to hold off teammate Mauro Caviezel by 0.07 seconds.
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway wound up third, 0.08 seconds back, as his reign came to an end. Svindal captured the last two downhill races at Beaver Creek before Feuz’s speedy performance on softening snow.
Last season, when the course was running at full length, it was Svindal who edged Feuz by 0.15 seconds. The approximately 30-second portion of the course removed was a gliding section.
“There’s something about gliding and if there are a lot of rolls and if you’re a tall guy you can work the terrain better,” Svindal said. “If you’re shorter, you bounce around more. Beat doesn’t like the top as much as I do.”
That’s why Feuz didn’t mind the switch.
“To put it to the reserve start, it was good for me,” Feuz said through a translator. “My strength is not in the flats. I was very determined to win today. I told the coaches once the start was moved down, ‘I have to grab the chance to make the win.'”
The changing weather made it difficult for everyone. Racers had to deal with falling snow, inconsistent light and fog — sometimes all three — on their way through the demanding Birds of Prey course. There were several big crashes, including one by Thomas Dressen of Germany where he caught an edge and tumbled into the protective fence. Dressen hurt his knee and went to the hospital as a precaution.
The fifth racer to take the course, Svindal was convinced he wouldn’t end up on the podium by the day’s end. Even more so when two racers later Feuz knocked him from the top spot.
But Svindal remained in the top three — bandaged left thumb and all. He hurt it in a recent training crash and can’t hold his ski pole. So he tapes it to his glove instead. He also can’t push out of the start gate.
No matter, he skates out of it.
“I don’t try to push, because it’s only going to be 50 percent of your normal pushing,” Svindal said. “You have to remember out of the start, no pushing.”
To think, given all his injuries over the years, the 35-year-old Svindal wasn’t sure how much he had left. But he couldn’t bring himself to leave the slopes. Not yet.
“I’m not sure if I don’t want to do it,” joked Svindal, who won the Olympic downhill at the Pyeongchang Games last February. “There’s too much about it that I still like. Definitely, it’s coming toward the end. There’s no doubt. There’s something really nice when you stop doing something, just knowing you’re 100 percent sure you’re done.”
It’s a solid start to the season for the 31-year-old Feuz, who earned bronze in the Olympic downhill last winter in addition to winning the overall title last season in the discipline. He was sixth in the opening downhill of the season last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.
For Caviezel, this was his first podium finish in a World Cup downhill event. He had two others in the super-G.
“It wasn’t easy. It was a little bit bumpy,” Caviezel said. “Sometimes you have good conditions, sometimes not.”
With downhill training canceled Thursday, Caviezel was asked if he had a chance to squeeze in some powder skiing.
“Maybe after my career,” Caviezel said. “I want to be back here for some holidays and enjoy it.”
American teammates Steven Nyman and Bryce Bennett tied for ninth. Nyman is steadily rounding back into form after knee surgery that caused him to miss the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“It’s getting better after every opportunity I have to ski,” Nyman said. “I gain a lot of strength and power every time I ski. The more I ski, the more confident I will become and hopefully chip away at the top. I’m pretty psyched with what I did.”
The next race at Beaver Creek will be a super-G on Saturday — weather permitting. Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria is the defending champion.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)