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Hoefl-Riesch wins Lake Louise downhill

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta -- Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany won a World Cup downhill by more than a half-second on Friday, while Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn finished 40th out of 60 starters in her first race for 10 months.

Hoefl-Riesch, the 2011 overall World Cup champion and a double gold medalist at the 2010 Olympics, finished the course in 1 minute, 56.03 seconds for her first victory of the season.

Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland was next in 1:56.73, with Elena Fanchini of Italy third in 1:57.23.

Lara Gut of Switzerland, who began the day leading the overall standings, was 10th.

Vonn had won seven consecutive races at Lake Louise, but the four-time overall champion is coming back from major knee surgery after a crash at the world championships in February.

The American had missed the previous 14 World Cup races, including the first five this season. She had been aiming to return to action last week at Beaver Creek, Colorado, not far from her hometown of Vail, but she scrapped those plans after damaging her repaired ACL in last month's crash.

“I'm always a positive thinker. I try to look on the bright side of everything, and I was really optimistic that I could come down and just — first race, right out of the blocks — win, and it was wishful thinking. But might as well shoot for the best, you know?” Vonn said.

“I was just too nervous. I was really tight, and I skied that way. I skied tight,” she explained. “I wasn't in a really deep tuck. I wasn't pushing the line where I could have. And I just kind of skied it, and that's not my style. That's not how I attack a race.”

Still, the reigning Olympic downhill gold medalist took an important step in her preparation for the Sochi Games by racing for the first time since her high-speed crash at the world championships tore two ligaments in her right knee and broke a bone in that leg.

“To be honest, we didn't expect her to win this race. A lot of people do, just because she has so many times,” U.S. Ski Team women's speed coach Chip White said. “But with all she's been through, we're just happy to see her back in the mix, and I think this is where we build from.”

Vonn said she will enter Saturday's downhill and Sunday's super-G.

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