Austrian skiers, disappointed at the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics, came to the Sochi downhill course in battle mode to get ready for the next Games.
Georg Streitberger led the third World Cup downhill training session Friday on the course that will be used for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Another Austrian, Hannes Reichelt, led the opening two sessions.
In sunny conditions, Streitberger raced down in two minutes 13.95 seconds. Emerging Swiss standout Beat Feuz was second, 0.31 seconds behind, and another Austrian, Joachim Puchner, was third, 0.63 behind.
Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was sixth in 2:14.89 and Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., was ninth in 2:15.09.
The downhill race is Saturday, followed by a super-combined Sunday..
After three days of training on the technically demanding Rosa Khutor run, Reichelt has been most consistent.
A number of racers decided not to start Friday's session, including overall World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, Italian contender Christof Innerhofer, Canada's Jan Hudec – who won last week at Chamonix, France -- and Austrian Benjamin Raich.
Saturday's World Cup downhill is the eighth of 11 in total.
Switzerland’s Didier Cuche, who had a top-10 placing Friday, in is on course to equal the record of five World Cup downhill titles, held by Franz Klammer, before retiring at the end of the season.
After getting their first look at the Sochi Olympic downhill course, Canada's top alpine skiers can see the potential, but they're not impressed with the setup for this weekend's World Cup competition. They say the course needs tweaks – and FIS official Bernhard Russi observed there are more than the usual number of turns at the top, making the course more like a super-G track than a true downhill.
Erik Guay called the setting for the Rosa Khutor course a “sweet area,” but saw some room for improvement. “The track also is a really nice track... I think they could have set a really cool course on it. Unfortunately, it's a little bit tight and turny in my opinion for a downhill.”
The cruse is also icy because of the amount of water injected into it.
Guay has been surprised by the strength of the team this season. Thomsen’ for instance, climbed from a 50th staring position to place fifth in Chamonix last week behind the victorious Hudec and third-place Guay.
“I thought this year would be more of a building curve for myself and also for the team with so many guys out with injuries,” Guay said. “Obviously, I underestimated Jan a little bit because he came back full force and strong right from the beginning.”
Next week, the world's top women will face the Sochi course.