BORMIO, Italy (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal is skiing as if he's on cruise control.
Hard or soft, sunny or dark, the Norwegian just keeps on winning. For Bode Miller and the rest of the U.S. Ski Team, however, this World Cup season has been a different story in downhill. While Miller's form has improved in recent weeks, he took a step backward Sunday when he finished 35th in a race won with a perfect run from Svindal.
"This wasn't good for my confidence," Miller said. "But my skiing was fine." Miller was an early starter and attributed his troubles to snowfall during the first half of his run. "I couldn't see anything," the two-time overall winner said. "Not seeing makes the bumps much worse. But I've been skiing well. I skied well in the training runs, so we just got to stay focused."
Svindal mastered the fresh snow conditions on the Stelvio course for his fourth victory of the Olympic season, with just 40 days to go to the Sochi Games. The Norwegian clocked 1 minute, 54.08 seconds to finish 0.39 seconds ahead of Hannes Reichelt of Austria.
Erik Guay of Canada placed third, 0.51 back, for a strong follow-up to his downhill victory in Val Gardena a week ago. Svindal trailed Guay at every checkpoint but then gained 0.65 seconds over the last few gates, where Guay made a slight but costly error, lifting up his left ski to regain his balance after cutting off a turn too sharply.
The Stelvio is known for its knee-jarring bumps, making fatigue a big factor. "You win Bormio in the last part, because everyone is tired. It's a mix of you're tired and it's a bit scary," Svindal said. "The last 30 seconds is where you win or lose the race. I had a good plan and was pretty determined to make it happen on the last part."
Svindal has finished in the top five in his last six World Cup downhill races and in 12 of his last 14 dating back to March 2012. How does he stay so consistent? "Preparation is big. And material is a big deal," Svindal said of his equipment. "I think I have really good material."
Miller is also accustomed to having top material but after sitting out last season to let his surgically repaired left knee heal, the 36-year-old racer is trailing in the equipment race. And Miller fell further behind when a pair of his skis — for giant slalom — were stolen from under his personal motor home overnight.
"Unfortunately, now looking at this, it was an omen for how the day was going to go," said Miller's wife, Morgan. Still, Miller's goal is to peak for the Olympics. And while he's yet to place better than fifth in a speed event this season, he was second in a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colorado, earlier this month.
"He's figuring it out for Sochi and that's all that matters," Morgan Miller said, adding that the couple would now head home to California for a break before returning to Europe for races in Adelboden, Switzerland, Jan. 11-12.
"It's going to be nice to get a little break and see our family and recharge," Morgan Miller said. With Miller struggling, the top American finisher was Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley, Calif., who was 10th for his best result of the season.
Ganong started second and appeared to face the worst of conditions. "It was snowing so hard I was plowing through snow the whole way," he said. "I feel like if I had started later today I could have had a better shot. For where I started I'm so happy with my skiing. I stuck to my plan, really pushed hard, had no mistakes and the skiing felt good."
Bormio will also host the next men's race on Jan. 6, a Monday night slalom that was moved from Zagreb due to a lack of snow in Croatia. A New Year's Day race in Munich was canceled due to lack of snow.
Follow Andrew Dampf at http://twitter.com/asdampf