Bright sun, no wind, below freezing. It was a great day for ski racing, which was good considering there were 91 men on the start list for the first downhill training run of the World Cup season, the Lake Louise Winterstart in Canada.
Surgery in July to repair a knee injured in May training at Zermatt appears to have been a good call for Canadian Cowboy Erik Guay. The personable competitor aced the first downhill training run of the season, recording the fastest time at Lake Louise Wednesday (Nov. 27). He was clocked in 1:50.00 even, a little less than two seconds slower than last season’s winning race time.
It was a glorious day for North America, both because of the spectacular weather and race conditions and also in terms of results. American Steven Nyman had the second fastest time after leading most of the way along the 3,091 meter course. Marco Sullivan finished with the fifth fastest time and Canadian Manuel Osborne-Paradis the sixth. Switzerland’s Patrick Kueng was the third fastest competitor on the day, and Austrian Georg Streitberger the fourth.
In addition, Jan Hudec finished tenth and Erik Fisher 14th. Some slight variations to the course made the top portion much more interesting than it has been in recent seasons.
“Before that big left footer at the top they made it go in a little earlier. It was like that when I first race here,” said Nyman. “It makes it a little more technical at the top, and there’s lots of micro terrain up there.” The surface, he said, was nice, “A hard, hard surface,” but where he had anticipated being able to relax a bit he found it necessary to “stay active and stay on the skis.”
Guay agreed, saying: “I wanted to go hard, but I’m surprised I’m fast. I didn’t think I would be winning the run.” Guay, who had microfracture surgery on his left knee in July, added, “There’s lots of things happening out there, but it’s one of those things where it’s the start of the season and you don’t know whether you’re going to be quick or not. There’s no way of telling.”
“It’s trial by fire, for sure. There’s more terrain to it, it’s firm, and there’s lots of bumps to it,” Guay said of the course. “You don’t have time to hesitate on it. I did a good job, but I think there’s still room for improvement. If I want to be fast on Saturday I’m going to have to step it up a couple gears more, but so far I cannot complain with that result.”
Nyman actually led most of his way down the track and was ahead by nearly three-quarters of a second before a “pretty big mistake,” cost him first place. He said he found himself way off course and had to ski back into the line. “Everyboody had mistakes. Erik had a mistake and Erik Fisher did as well.”
“I like Lake Louise,” Nyman said. “I’ve won some training runs here before, and I’m really comfortable on my skis right now having worked a lot with Fischer over the summer.
Never known as being much of a glider, he said that was a focus in his pre-season work, and it appears to be paying off.
“It feels good,” he said, “but still, it’s just the first training run.”
“Lake Louise gives us home hill advantage. Friends and family are here and the race has a special energy you don’t get anywhere else,” said 2007 downhill winner Hudec prior to the training run. “There’s a lot of pride on the line. Anything less than a top 10 would be unsatisfactory.” He cut it pretty close, but could feel satisfied after the first of three scheduled training runs.
Results – Downhill Training Day 1
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|16||15||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:50.94|
|42||56||194542||GIRAUD MOINE Valentin||1992||FRA||1:52.02|
|52||72||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||1:52.80|
|55||86||192504||MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas||1984||FRA||1:52.95|
|64||71||491151||DE LA CUESTA Paul||1988||SPA||1:53.66|
|69||87||191746||DE TESSIERES Gauthier||1981||FRA||1:54.17|
|81||91||110324||VON APPEN Henrik||1994||CHI||1:58.00|