By Patrick Lang

VAL GARDENA, Italy, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Steven Nyman took advantage of improving weather conditions to conquer the Val Gardena classic downhill for the second time on a shortened Saslong course on Saturday.

Six years after his only World Cup victory to date on the same Italian piste, the 30-year-old American upset the favorites to win in one minute 28.82 seconds.

The organizers’ decision to hold the race at all costs after two delays and an interruption helped the Park City speed specialist back on the podium for the first time in five years.

“I realized that it was going to be faster but to be honest, it was even faster than I thought and it sometimes went almost too fast for me,” said Nyman, who had three other World Cup podiums behind him.

“My first victory here was fantastic because it was such a surprise but this is even, stronger because of the long fight I had to make to get back here”, added the American, who has a long history of injuries

While Nyman is a specialist speedster, the lucky man on the day was Slovenia’s Rok Perko, who finished second, 0.19 of a second adrift, for his first top 10 placing after seven years on the circuit.

“It’s the dream of a lifetime to be on a World Cup podium,” said a bemused Perko, a junior world champion in 2005.

In a race favoring late starters, world champion Erik Guay finished third, 0.24 behind Nyman.

The Canadian was pleasantly surprised after missing most of his autumn training because of a knee injury.

Starting in much worse conditions with poor visibility, Norwegians Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal finished fourth and fifth.

Svindal took his overall World Cup total to 585 points, leading American Ted Ligety by 177 points while holder Marcel Hirscher of Austria lies third on 380 points.

Heavy snowfalls forced two delays to the race and it finally took place two hours behind schedule on a shortened course to enhance visibility.

The classic Val Gardena downhill had been stopped last season because of gusty winds and the International Ski Federation clearly did not want it called off again.

But while the first 11 starters were able to complete the course safely, fog rose again above the tricky, bumpy Kamelbuckel section, forcing the organizers to halt the race for another half hour.