With the first two speed wins of the 2019-20 season going to the man wearing bib 13, the more superstitious top-ranked skiers on the men’s speed circuit might be inclined to pick the fortuitous number at the next speed series in Beaver Creek with hopes of keeping the hot streak alive.

Others will insist that luck had nothing to do with Austrian Matthias Mayer’s commanding super-G win on Sunday in Lake Louise, Canada, where the Olympic Champion dominated the field by nearly a full half-second.

It was another picturesque day in the Canadian Rockies as the fastest men in the world opened up the World Cup super-G season with conditions that couldn’t have been much better for a ski race.

Much like Saturday’s downhill, it was evident early on that precision combined with strategic risk taking would be key to success as a few crucial sections emerged as the difference makers after the first racers took to the course. Namely, the back-to-back sections known as “Coashes Corner” and “C-Turn” were critical to nail in order for racers to carry good speed onto the bottom flats and into the finish.

Mayer charges his way to a dominant super-G win in Lake Louise. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Wolfgang Grebien

Last season’s breakout super-G star, Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel, looked to have cracked the code and held the early lead until Italy’s Dominik Paris snatched it back by 0.09 seconds just two bibs later. Austrian favorite Vincent Kriechmayr looked to be putting together a stellar run before slipping back at the last interval and crossed the line in a tie with Caviezel.

Mayer then took to the course wearing bib 13 and was able to pull time where the rest of the field couldn’t by strategically running a deeper line than most on the upper “Wee Waxy” turns as well as the Coaches Corner and C-Turn sections lower on the slope. The Austrian’s risk taking paid off in a big way as he blew the doors off the competition and crossed the finish line a full 0.40 seconds ahed of Paris for his first win of the season.

“Of course, I’m very happy about my race today. A win, especially in the first race of the season is very important,” Mayer shared. “We had good training in the fall so far and I feel very happy for this first win in the first race. I was very good from Coaches Corner to the finish. I tried to push hard, tried to give everything and I knew that the other guys are in very good shape and every hundredth of a second is very important.”

Mayer has shown impressive form in not only the speed events so far this season, but also a surprise 15th-place finish in the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, last month to kick off the World Cup season. Mayer actually leads the Overall World Cup standings after Sunday with 161 points and has more opportunities to widen that lead at the next series in Beaver Creek.

“I’m very happy about the beginning of the season,” he added. “I’ve had three races so far, especially with the GS in Soelden I was very happy and now my first win in the third race couldn’t be better for me.”

Speaking of hot starts to the season, Paris’ back-to-back runner-up finishes means the Italian speed star sits just one point behind Mayer in the Overall standings. The 30-year-old looks to be another athlete to watch all season long as the drama of the chase for the Overall globe unfolds this season.

“I would say a very good start to the season,” Paris said. “Two podiums, two second places at the start, I didn’t expect that but I’m very happy with it. Matthias took more risk than me and he was very clean on the edge and brought the speed down to the finish. Maybe I lost some time there. It’s still the start of the season but we will see how it’s going this season and I will try to continue with these results and when the end of the season comes we will see.”

Back-to-back second-place finishes to start the season bode well for another strong year of speed from Paris. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Mario Kneisl

Kriechmayer will also undoubtedly be a factor in the race for both the downhill and super-G titles this season. Known as one of the most technically sound racers on the speed side of the sport, Kriechmayer will likely mix it up at the top of the results even more as the World Cup travels to more demanding venues as the season progresses.

“I skied really well,” he said. “I had a really good run, but not good enough. I made some little mistakes, but Matthias was unstoppable today. The middle part was my best section today. I was not the fastest on the top and not the fastest at the end of the race. I have to make this better next year and we will see.”

Another oddity of Sunday’s race was the second-straight tie for third place. Today, it was Kriechmayr and Caviezel sharing bronze.

“I was really happy,” Caviezel said of his start to the season. “I tried to push the whole course and it’s not easy in super-G, you have to push but not over-push and it’s good to start the season on the podium for sure. I’m really happy with the start of my season. You never know exactly how you stand before the first races so after a good downhill and super-G, it was a really good start to the season and I hope I’m in good shape for the rest of it.”

The American contingent was led for the second day in a row by Travis Ganong. The California native has seen constant improvement in his super-G skiing over the past few seasons and finished in 12th place, 1.37 seconds back. Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Steven Nyman were the other Americans in the top 30 in 21st and 22nd place, respectively. Thomas Biesemeyer finished in 36th, Bryce Bennett 45th, Samuel Dupratt 56th, and Kyle Negomir 58th.

Canada’s Brodie Seger also led the home team in an impressive 16th place from bib 57.

“My mindset was to go out there and push and do what I can do,” Seger told Alpine Canada after the race. “It’s such a confidence boost going forward. This was exactly my goal this season. I know I’ve been skiing well in training but to finally make it happen feels so good. It was amazing, that was the first thing I heard before I even saw the results. When I saw my place, I was just over the moon.” 

The men now head to Beaver Creek, Colorado, for the Birds of Prey downhill, super-G, and giant slalom races December 3-8.

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A Lake Tahoe native and University of Vermont graduate, Higgins was a member of the Catamounts' 2012 NCAA title winning squad and earned first team All-American honors in 2013. Prior to coming to Ski Racing Media, he coached U14s for the Squaw Valley Ski Team.