Skiing: Foser the beneficiary after weather's poser

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A PAIR of back-markers enjoyed their moment in the Italian sun yesterday as conditions improved dramatically for the late runners in the first downhill race of the men's World Cup season, writes Bill Scott from Val Gardena.

Neither Markus Foser, of Liechtenstein, nor Austria's Werner Franz had rated a line in the semi-official ski media guide for this season. Now they will certainly get a picture and full statistical treatment when the next edition is published.

The unknowns took advantage of extraordinary good luck to finish first and second in a weather-dominated downhill which left the favourites to pick up the crumbs.

Foser's coach, the former Swiss racer Marie-Therese Nadig and the only woman to run a men's downhill team, gave her 25-year-old charge full marks for initiative in taking victory in 2min 08.90sec. 'It was the skier who took the chances and did the work. He won, I just helped with the preparation,' she said.

A strong wind at the head of the run had made life miserable for the early starters. These included the top 15, who are allowed to chose their own start numbers.

By the time the first 30 were standing around the finish area, surprises began to occur as the wind dropped.

One of those to benefit temporarily was Marc Giaradelli, the five-times World Cup holder. But Franz and Foser then came down to spoil the parade and deny the Austrian his first win in a downhill since January, 1989.

'This cannot be called a regular race,' Girardelli, who climbed from 13th to ninth in the season's standings,' said. 'But the weather here is always a problem.'

Meanwhile, Britain's two downhillers also drew some benefit from the day. Martin Bell finished 21st with a time of 2:10.40, while his brother, Graham, came 35th in 2:10.87. Of the top 15 finishers, only seven came from the elite first 30.

As for Foser and Franz, they had been sent here by their eager coaches last weekend and had finished in the same order in a lesser-ranked Europa Cup event. At the head of the overall standings there was no change after the downhill, Norway's Kjetil Aamodt leading the way on 357 points and Austria's Guenther Mader trailing him on 342.