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Kelly VanderBeek skis over a jump en route to posting the fastest time in Thursday's downhill practice in Austria. ((Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images))

Canada's Kelly VanderBeek skied the fastest time in Thursday's training run for this weekend's World Cup women's downhill in Zauchensee, Austria.

In men's downhill practice in Wengen, Switzerland, Montreal-born Erik Guay finished third.

VanderBeek, from Kitchener, Ont., completed the 3,005-metre Kaelberloch course in one minute, 51.21 seconds to edge Frenchwoman Marie Marchand-Arvier by 0.06 seconds.

Italy's Lucia Recchia was third, 0.29 seconds back of VanderBeek, who shook off a previous spill on the upper section of the course.

"The last time I skied that section I crashed actually, so I was a little bit nervous going through it," said Vanderbeek, who has reached the podium twice in World Cup downhills. "I am happy with how I dealt with that,"

American Lindsey Vonn — the reigning overall and downhill champion and this season's downhill leader — was 18th, 1.21 seconds behind.

Overall leader Maria Riesch of Germany was 40th, 2.90 seconds off the lead.

Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., was 30th, Emily Brydon of Fernie, B.C., was 32nd, and Montreal's Emilie Desforges was 34th. Larisa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., was disqualified for missing a gate.

Fog caused slightly poor visibility for early starters, but conditions improved during the run, which benefited lower start numbers.

The practice run was the first of the week, as Wednesday's session was cancelled because of fog and snowfall.

There will be another training run on Friday before competition begins with a super-combined on Saturday and the downhill on Sunday.

Top men ease up

On the men's side, Guay handled the challenging Lauberhorn course — at 4,480 metres the longest on the circuit — in 2:32.67, 0.30 seconds behind Slovenia's Andrej Jerman.

Italy's Peter Fill was second, 0.23 seconds back of Jerman.

Vancouver's Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who was fifth in the opening session on Wednesday, finished in eighth spot, while Calgary's John Kucera was 11th.

Jan Hudec of Calgary continued his comeback from knee surgery, placing 42nd. Louis-Pierre Hélie of Berthierville, Que., was 52nd, development team member Tyler Nella of Toronto was 64th, and Jeffrey Frisch of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 66th.

Robbie Dixon of Whistler, B.C., who didn't finish Wednesday's run, sat out to rest a bruised shin.

Defending champion last

Defending World Cup downhill champion Didier Cuche, who was fastest on Wednesday, finished last among the 86 athletes who completed the course.

Current downhill leader Michael Walchhofer of Austria was fifth, reigning World Cup overall champion Bode Miller of the United States tied for 17th, while this season's overall leader Benjamin Raich of Austria tied for 36th.

"I wouldn't read too much into the results," said Canadian men's head coach Paul Kristofic. "A lot of top racers eased up at the finish and were conserving energy.

"What it does say is that our guys did a decent job today but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement."

Competition in Wengen is scheduled to begin Friday with a super combined. Kristofic said that Kucera and Hélie would participate in that race.

The coach also said that Guay, Osborne-Paradis, Kucera, Hudec, Hélie and Nella would race in Saturday's downhill (CBCSports.ca, Bold, 6:25 a.m. ET; CBC, 1 p.m. ET).

With files from the Associated Press