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Changing snow and tough slalom awaits combined rivals

Croatia's Ivica Kostelic (L) talks to US skier Bode Miller after a Men's Alpine Skiing Super Combined Downhill training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 13, 2014
Croatia's Ivica Kostelic (L) talks to US skier Bode Miller after a Men's Alpine Skiing Super Combined Downhill training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 13, 2014

Changeable snow conditions and a tough slalom set by the father of Ivica Kostelic could throw up a raft of surprises in Friday's super-combined, racers have warned.

The men had their final outing on the Rosa Khutor downhill run early on Thursday, Ondrej Bank of the Czech Republic topping the times with 1min 54.32sec down the slightly shorter 3.2km course.

But American duo Bode Miller, the reigning Olympic champion in the discipline, and Ted Ligety, crowned world champion last year in Schladming, both voiced varying concerns over the combined.

"In these (warm) conditions, the course really changes a lot in an hour," lamented the 36-year-old Miller, who finished a disappointing eighth in Sunday's downhill.

Thursday's training was brought forward to 0530 GMT with short intervals between racers as course officials attempted to preserve snow conditions on the course, although Friday's start time reverts to 0700 GMT.

"They have goals to keep the snow in good shape for a while longer. There's a couple more races on it," Miller explained.

"They can't really justify running the training run later especially when there's been as many training runs as there has.

"Running tomorrow earlier would potentially help, it gives a little fairer conditions.

"The biggest thing is the intervals. If you run full race intervals, it's 40 minutes between when the first guys go and the second guys.

"If you happen (to get) the luck of the draw and draw five, you run 45 minutes or an hour before someone who's ranked two points behind you and draws 29."

US skier Bode Miller takes part in a Men's Alpine Skiing Super Combined Downhill training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 11, 2014
US skier Bode Miller takes part in a Men's Alpine Skiing Super Combined Downhill training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 11, 2014

Miller said for that reason, racers preferring the speed events could suffer come the afternoon slalom run on Friday.

"The conditions (for slalom) are tough. It's marginal with salting and trying to keep the snow hard," he said.

"I feel OK. Obviously I don't have the same time in the slalom this year as in the last five years."

But the slalom specialists, he said, "train a ton of slalom and they know their set-ups and they're able to come straight out on a pretty aggressive, gnarly hill with marginal conditions and ski 100 percent".

"I don't know if I'm confident enough to do that but I'm going to pretty much have to.

"Right now the downhill's so easy and so basic, there's nothing challenging about it really. There's no way to put any time on the slalom guys.

"Everyone just skis normal and everyone's within a second and a half or so and that makes the slalom much more favourable (for the slalom specialists)."

Four-time world champion Ligety said his goal was "to try to get on the podium or win".

"I think that's well within my grasp if I ski well. The downhill's got better every run and I feel more and more comfortable.

"Hopefully tomorrow I can piece together a good run and then have a good run at slalom as well and that equals something metallic around my neck."

Turning to course-setter Ante Kostelic, Ligety said: ""Ante always sets a difficult course. It is what it is. Slalom is difficult no matter what, there's definite ability to have some surprises tomorrow, so we'll see.

"I don't know if Ante normally sets for Ivica or not. I think he mostly sets on his own kind of whim."

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