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PREVIEW: Val d'Isere men's World Cup, Dec. 10-11

PREVIEW: Val d’Isere men’s World Cup, Dec. 10-11The men’s World Cup has returned to Europe for a pair of races at Val d’Isere, France, this weekend. The men will race downhill on Saturday and super combined on Sunday. Their one and only downhill training run was on Friday.

While the men are racing in Val d’Isere, the women are in Aspen for three races: super G on Friday, giant slalom on Saturday, slalom Sunday.

The Val d’Isere races are a mainstay of the alpine racing calendar. This year’s race series marks the 50th anniversary of the original Criterium de la Premiere Niege that was first held in December 1955. The races were folded into the alpine World Cup in 1968, and have been there almost every season since.

Buddy Werner was the first American man to win races in Val d’Isere, taking home gold trophies in both slalom and combined in 1963. Three different American men have won World Cup races here: Phil Mahre (GS, 1976; combined, 1976 and 1979); AJ Kitt (downhill, 1991); and Bode Miller (GS, 2001 and 2004).

The Haute Savoie town is home to the legendary Jean-Claude Killy. Up a long valley from Albertville, and within sight of Mont Blanc, it was a venue for alpine racing in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games. The town is slated to host the 2009 alpine World Championships.

This will be the third men’s downhill of the year. The first two took place in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek, where Fritz Strobl and Daron Rahlves were the winners. Because Strobl is the current downhill discipline points leader, he will wear the red leader’s jersey on Saturday.

On Sunday, Val d’Isere hosts the season’s first super combined. A one-day race consisting of a short downhill and slalom, the super combined is a new format (inaugurated last season at Wengen) that condenses the traditional combined event into one day.

Last year, Val d’Isere hosted two World Cup races. The now-injured Werner Franz of Austria won the downhill there, and American Bode Miller won the GS.

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