December 17, 2015

VAL D'ISERE, France (AP) Lindsey Vonn was on such good form when posting the fastest time in a downhill training run on Thursday that she eased up before the line.

The Oreiller Killy course at the French Alpine resort of Val d'Isere has long been one of the former Olympic champion's favorites - and it showed.

Despite standing up out of her tuck position and dropping her arms for the final few meters, she placed .32 seconds ahead of Swiss skier Lara Gut and .89 clear of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein.

''I just like going fast, I love my job,'' a smiling Vonn said at the finish.

She has good reason to smile, having won four races already this season to extend her women's record to 71.

Next up is a World Cup super-combined on Friday - downhill and then slalom - followed by Saturday's downhill, where she will be odds-on favorite.

''I'm not unbeatable,'' said the 31-year-old American, who won last year's downhill at Val d'Isere.

Vonn is chasing a fifth overall World Cup title and first since 2012 - before her career was threatened by two knee operations in the aftermath of her crash at the 2013 world championships.

''Karma comes back in the end, if you work hard,'' she said. ''I had a really good feeling when I was training at home in Vail (Colorado) with some of the Austrian men and some of the American men. Usually if I'm on the same page as the men I have a good season.''

Winning two downhills and a Super-G at Lake Louise and a giant slalom last weekend in the Swedish resort of Are shows that she is very much on track.

Gut, her most dangerous rival because she's doing all five disciplines, is already 128 points behind.

There appears little other competition, with longtime rival Tina Maze taking the year off and defending overall champion Anna Fenninger facing a year out with a knee injury.

When Vonn won a downhill in Val d'Isere 10 years ago to the day, she was presented with a cow.

''I remember the weather being really bad and Janica (Kostelic) was trying to make me nervous,'' Vonn said. ''But I knew there was a cow in the finish and that's what I wanted to win.''

Vonn recounts how Kostelic tried - and failed - to put her off with mind games.

''It was like a blizzard and she was like `Oh, I don't know if we're going to race, I don't know if I'm going to race, maybe you shouldn't race,''' Vonn said. ''(But) I was too smart for that.''

Vonn won downhill again at Val d'Isere in 2006 and 2010, adding super-combi wins in 2009 and 2010.

But another win in Friday's super-combi could prove complicated considering that her previous slalom win was six years ago.

''I'm 1,000 percent winging it,'' Vonn said.

Vonn had waited several minutes before racing after watching fellow American Stacey Cook crash spectacularly into the safety netting.

''I just got a bit of unexpected air,'' Cook told The Associated Press. ''I was going quite a bit faster and didn't realize that would have as much effect as it did.''

Cook was unharmed, but it took safety workers several minutes to free her from the meshing.

''I literally could not even move my head in the fence, I was so stuck, couldn't move at all,'' she said. ''They couldn't get my skis off because I was too far away from them. So it was like a little fly trap.''

Yet Cook says such crashes can have a positive effect.

''Sometimes it can actually give you confidence that you can crash so hard and actually still be fine,'' she said. ''A weird kind of confidence that you can (push) it a little bit more.''

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