MERIBEL, France (AP) — Regina Sterz of Austria posted the fastest time Friday in a downhill training run, with overall World Cup leader Tina Maze of Slovenia second.
Sterz finished in 1 minute, 42.43 seconds — one second better than Maze's best time on Thursday. "The slope here is really nice. The bottom part is really technical, which I like a lot," Maze said. "I made some mistakes on the top, so there are things to do better."
Fresh from her successful world championships in which she won one gold and two silver medals, Maze is looking to extend her impressive form with a first downhill win of the season. "I feel great, the two trainings I did great," she said. "The slope feels good to me and I'm skiing fast. I have fast material and fast skis, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Maze finished .49 seconds behind, with Julia Mancuso .78 back in third. "It's a little better than yesterday, the snow's perfect," said Mancuso, who was 22nd in Thursday's practice run and last won a World Cup downhill two years ago in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. "It's a little flatter than I expected. The last pitch is the only real pitch, but it's pretty exciting, lots of big turns."
Stacey Cook, who has two second-place finishes this season — both at Lake Louise, Canada —was fifth fastest. Americans occupy the top two places and four of the top six in the downhill standings, needing just two more podiums to equal the national record of 10 ladies' World Cup downhill podiums set in 1994-95. Cook is second overall in downhill behind Lindsey Vonn, who is out injured for the rest of the season after seriously injuring her knee in a horrendous crash during the worlds.
World champion Marion Rolland of France was more than one second adrift in sixth on the Roc de Fer course in Meribel, which is hosting its first World Cup races in 19 years. "You have to thank the whole (ski) resort of Meribel," Roland said. "The preparation has been excellent, the welcome has been perfect, everyone's really available to help you and the girls are all happy to be here."
Maze has a 888-point lead over Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany in the overall standings. Hoefl-Riesch came seventh to improve on her 11th-place finish Thursday. "It's a nice hill with many rolls and big turns. But the conditions are great and I had fun today," said Hoefl-Riesch, who also did well at the recent worlds with gold in the super-combined ahead of Maze and bronze in downhill.
"I had good form before, but the big results were missing a little bit," she said. "I was often just behind the podium and so everybody thought my season was bad. But actually I'm second in overall World Cup, so it could be worse."
The downhill race will be followed by a super-combined on Sunday — downhill and slalom — giving Hoefl-Riesch and Maze another chance to test themselves against each other.