Kjetil Jansrud will aim to maintain his downhill dominance at the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup event in Val Gardena on Friday.
The Norwegian, who won gold in the Super G and bronze in the downhill at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, has made a blistering start to the new World Cup season and already has three wins and one second-place finish to his name.
Two of those wins have come in the downhill at Lake Louise and Beaver Creek, and the 29-year-old will be eager to make it three straight wins in that discipline after losing the lead of the overall standings to slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher.
Jansrud heads into the race, which has switched places with Saturday's super-G in an effort to help preserve the Saslong course, 28 points behind Hirscher following the Austrian's slalom and giant slalom double at Are last weekend.
Victory for Jansrud could prove key in a fight for the overall title that is quickly developing into a two-horse race, and would see him become the first man to win the opening three downhill races of a campaign since Austria's Stephan Eberharter achieved the feat in the 2002-03 season.
Eberharter went on to win the overall, downhill and super-G crowns but, while another triumph would be a good omen for Jansrud's prospects of doing the same, the Stavanger-born skier is not expecting to have it all his own way.
"I know I've come as a favourite, and that's how I feel, but I know it's going to be a fight for the downhill and super-G," Jansrud said after his training run. "And as we all know, the races here in Val Gardena/Groden can also be won by athletes with higher bib numbers."
American Steven Nyman figures to be one of the main challengers having finished third at Beaver Creek and won the downhill at the course in northern Italy in the 2006-07 and 2012-13 seasons.
Those two wins serve as the only victories of Nyman's World Cup career, and the 32-year-old looks in good form after recording the best time in training on Wednesday, beating Jansrud by 0.19 seconds with a time of one minute and 59.98 secs.
"The Saslong is completely different this year compared to other years. It's in great shape, despite the well-known snow issues," Nyman said.
"There are still a few things that need to happen on the course before Friday. I have captured my only two World Cup victories on this course. This gives me a good feeling and I truly hope to be right there at the top on Friday."