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Double Olympic champion Mayer wins Lake Louise downhill

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Nov 27, 2021; Lake Louise, Alberta, CAN; Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria (left) and Matthias Mayer of Austria (middle) and Beat Feuz of Switzerland (right) celebrate on the podium during men's downhill race at the FIS alpine skiing World Cup at Lake Louise. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Austrian double Olympic gold medalist Matthias Mayer won the opening downhill race of the men's World Cup season on Saturday ahead of compatriot Vincent Kriechmayr and Switzerland's Beat Feuz.

It was a dominating start to the speed season by the Austrians, who placed three skiers in the first five and six in the top 16 at the iconic resort in the Canadian Rockies, signaling another fierce battle for coveted Olympic spots.

With each country allowed a maximum of four skiers in any discipline the fight just to get on to the Austrian squad is often as ferocious as the battle for medals and that once again appears to be the case heading into the Beijing Winter Games.

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"As a team we are in very good shape," said Mayer, who won the last race run at Lake Louise, a super-G in 2019. "It was a really good start for the whole Austrian team; we can be very happy.

"There's still two months to go until the Olympics, we have the super-G tomorrow, we have four races next week so it is going to be a tough programme."

Competing a day after the first downhill race of the week was called off because of too much snow, Mayer posted a time of one minute 47.74 seconds to secure his 11th World Cup win.

Kriechmayr, who started first among the 65 competitors, was 0.23 seconds behind Mayer, while Feuz, the four-time reigning downhill Crystal Globe winner, was 0.35 seconds adrift in third.

With his win, the 31-year-old Mayer has now finished on the podium in each of his last six World Cup downhill appearances, a run that began with his triumph in Bormio last December.

Mayer is the first Austrian man to claim six successive top-three finishes in World Cup downhill races since Stephan Eberharter, who set a run of eight in 2003-2004.

With clouds moving in, Mayer and Kriechmayr benefited from early start numbers.

Kriechmayr, first out of the start hut, immediately posted the target time that only his team mate Mayer, starting seventh, would better.

"I think it was very important," said Mayer about his early start number. "It was getting a little bit bumpier from number to number.

"Beat started in front of me and I saw his run was really good."

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Reporting by Steve Keating; Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto Editing by Paul Simao and Clare Fallon

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