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Klaus Kroell skis fastest downhill training run in Beaver Creek

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) -- Austria's Klaus Kroell found the right balance between hurrying down the course and holding just a little back.

No sense showing too much in a training run.

There is, after all, a little gamesmanship at play: Fly down the hill just fast enough in the practice run to be considered a threat come race day, but don't let anyone know how speedy the skis truly are.

Under ideal conditions, Kroell charged down the sun-splashed Birds of Prey course in the top time of 1 minute, 41.52 seconds on Tuesday, edging teammate Max Franz by 0.45 seconds. Christof Innerhofer of Italy was third on the first of three training days.

"This is good for the confidence, but (winning a training run) says nothing," said Kroell, who captured the downhill title last season. "Most of the guys are going more easier. It doesn't really matter."

No, it certainly doesn't. There are no World Cup points awarded for a sizzling time now, just on Friday when the race begins.

The skier to watch is Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who was fifth on a day when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Svindal has been installed as the favorite for good reason: He won two straight speed events last week in Lake Louise, Alberta.

"I didn't have an awesome run," said Svindal, who finished nearly a second behind Kroell.

Was he trying to?

"You hold a little back. But I think it's more for safety reasons than tactical reasons," said Svindal, who won the downhill race at this venue in 2008. "There's no need for taking those risks that you do in the race."

Bode Miller won't step into the starting gate for the downhill as he gives his left knee more time to heal after undergoing microfracture surgery nine months ago. He won the event on this course last season with a nerve-testing performance.

Travis Ganong had the fastest time among the Americans, finishing in 15th place. Marco Sullivan, who tied with Kroell for third place in the downhill race last week, was a spot behind Ganong.

"Everybody in the race takes a training run with a grain of salt," said Ted Ligety, who was 41st and three seconds behind Kroell. "I don't think anyone is putting too much weight on it. Nobody is taking full risk out there, that's for sure. Everybody is at a much more dumbed-down speed, for sure."

Still, Kroell's time was rather impressive.

Although, he was almost as interested in how Svindal's run went.

"After the first two races, he's amazingly strong. So we have to push," Kroell said. "Here, he's the big favorite."

Svindal dismisses that with a wave of his ski glove. Lately, he's received some good-natured razzing from other skiers.

"Everyone is looking at you, watching your video, joking around with you at the start, `Can you slow down a little bit, you're making us look bad,"' Svindal said, smiling. "I know they don't really mean it. It doesn't affect me. You want to be one of the guys to watch after you finish the run, not at the start.

"Now, Klaus Kroell, he's the man to watch."

Only, Kroell's watching Svindal.

"So, well, that's good," Svindal said. "I'm watching him and he's watching me. Perfect."

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