Updated: Saturday, 07 December 2013 10:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Vonn well back in cautious return

Lindsey Vonn finished 40th in her highly anticipated return to the World Cup circuit after 10 months out with injury, as Maria Hoefl-Riesch captured the Lake Louise women's downhill.

Vonn well back in cautious return

Lindsey Vonn of US competes during the second Ladies downhill at the alpine skiing FIS World Cup in Lake Louise, Canada, on December 6, 2013

US ski star Vonn, who had won seven straight races at Lake Louise, was competing for the first time since tearing ligaments in her right knee at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, in February.

Her return was delayed a week after she re-injured the knee in training in November, putting her in a race against time to regain her fitness to defend her Olympic downhill crown in Sochi, Russia, in February next year.

"I usually come to Lake Louise with rhythm and today was clearly not the case, since my last race was in February," Vonn said. "It would sure be nice to come out of the gate and win, but unfortunately it is not that easy."

Vonn, who has decided to put off surgery until after Sochi, finished in a time of 1:59.22, over three seconds behind Hoefl-Riesch.

The 29-year-old German stormed down the course in one minute, 56.03 seconds, ahead of the Swiss Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden and Elena Fanchini of Italy, who placed third.

Vonn said she lacked confidence on the hill.

"Well, I guess I'm a little rusty," she wrote on her Facebook page. "I was more nervous than normal and I didn't ski with confidence... guess that happens after blowing out your knee and not racing for 10 months."

Vonn, who performed cautiously, will get another chance to test the knee in Saturday's second Lake Louise downhill.

"Tomorrow is going to be a different story for me. I will hopefully be able to be much more relaxed and confident to ski more aggressively, more like myself," Vonn said in the post-race news conference.

Frigid temperatures and fog forced organizers to delay the start of Friday's race for one hour.

Second-placed Kaufmann-Abderhalden clocked 1:56.73 while Fanchini finished in a time of 1:57.23. Austria's Anna Fenninger was fourth in 1:57.30.

Tina Weirather, of Liechtenstein, posted the fifth fastest time Friday officials disqualified her. That allowed Nadja Kamer to move into fifth place.

Hoefl-Riesch's dominant win came in the second downhill of the World Cup season following Lara Gut's victory in Beaver Creek last week.

It was the fourth career downhill win in Lake Louise for Hoefl-Riesch.

"I knew the line and knew what to do," she said. "After two good training days I was hoping I would be able to replicate that today and I'm really happy I did.

"When I first came to Lake Louise at the age of 18 I knew I was going to like that hill.

"I've had some good results here since. Winning today gives me a lot of confidence for the next races and I will try my best tomorrow. I will ski the same line and use the same skis for hopefully another good result."

Gut leads the World Cup overall standings with 326 points, 33 points ahead of Hoefl-Riesch. 

The women will also compete in a Super G on Sunday.

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