He said he had to qualify via training results to even get the start. “Now the
pressure of qualifying is over. Now I am part of the Austrian downhill team and
I am really happy about that.”
After a final training run with the second fastest time from Erik Guay, the Canadian fans were prepared to celebrate. But Guay finished 44th with an uncharacteristically bad performance. Instead the Maple Leaf Cowboys put Jan
Hudec —with very limited summer training — in 12th as the best finisher. Robbie Dixon notched 25th and Ben Thomsen finished 34th.
“I’m proud to be the top Canadian,” said Hudec. “Obviously I wanted to be a
little closer to the podium, but...I’m happy with my performance.”
Hudec started second as snow continued falling and said the start position
helped as the course was still quite smooth. “It’s always tough when you have
lots of fresh snow,” he said. “You can’t really pin the straight line you want as
the track isn’t there yet.”
The Americans had Bode Miller in ninth making up time on the bottom third of
the course after thrashing through some of the higher turns.
The next batch of U.S. skiers started close together at a time when the wind
conditions were spiking. “We were up at the start going, ‘Come on, sun!’” said
Marco Sullivan. “Some guys got a head wind and some got a tail wind.” After
losing the bulk of last season to injury, Sullivan said he was happy to be back
racing and “getting the adrenaline going.” He snagged points in 24th place and
Travis Ganong — three-hundredths behind Sullivan — was 27th. Erik Fisher
missed points in 35th.
“We have,” said coach Sasha Rearick, “some work to do.”
The snow was coming down thicker for Sunday’s super G. The start was
lowered, and pre-race speculation said early start numbers would have the
advantage. The race offered many a surprise. With temperatures hovering at
the freezing mark, the very wet snow packed to a glaze for the later skiers,
so long as they could stay in the line. One didn’t have to drift far off the line to
encounter enough snow to seriously scrape off time. Skiers finishing in the top
10 came from all up and down the start order, from sixth to 61st.
But the course was rough and lined with soft, edge-catching snow. No one felt
comfortable on the course, including Svindal and Cuche, the one and two finishers. Hudec delighted fans, and himself, by taking fourth place from the 44th
start and said he scrubbed speed when he got off line. “I knew that was the
end of my victory dance,” said Hudec, “but you’ve got to put your head down
and keep going.”
Asked if the race should have been held, Cuche refrained from answering,
saying: “When you make comment you get in trouble, but I would say we
used to race in conditions much worse than it was today. I think we had one
bad crash; it didn’t look good, but most of the guys got down safe. You are not
forced to start if you don’t want.” In that crash, Frenchman Gauthier DeTes-
sieres sustained a shoulder injury and a suspected ACL tear. He was to be
further evaluated in Vail.
Cuche, the World Cup overall leader, said he had experienced trouble on the
steep part of the fall away. “I was trying to push hard because I knew those
were the challenging turns for the whole run,” he said. “I reached the limit with
the angle and both skis [slid] out. ... Aksel [Svindal] was also a bit at the limit
there but I think he carried more speed through the flat section.”
Svindal agreed he had been far from perfect. “Basically you have to do your
run and and not think about any conclusion before you see the board, because
there is no way of knowing,” he said. “I felt pretty good. I was charging pretty
hard. I didn’t feel perfect; it was a little rough in a couple places.”
Hudec’s heroic charge, called “impressive,” by Svindal, was far from the only
bright spot for Canada. Erik Guay rebounded from the ugly downhill showing
to take the early lead and hung on for sixth.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel that much different than yesterday,” said Guay. “I can
say that I was pretty lucky with the start number. Starting earlier is a big advan-
tage in soft conditions like that.”
The only American racer with an early start number was Bode Miller, who
came through with a ninth place finish. The others also made Rearick proud.
“I was very proud with how they skied, especially the technical sections and
the bigger turns,” said Rearick. “They did a great job across the board.” He
said the faults of the U.S. group were primarily tactical, “but in terms of dy-
namic skiing and the things we worked on, I was so proud,” he said. “The guys
skied well, just not at the best times or best conditions. Lake Louise is always
like that with changing conditions, both with the wind and the light. That’s not
in our control.”
Sullivan — not highly known as a super G skier — said he “skied with intent,”
to make it to 17th; Tommy Ford skied to 22nd. Travis Ganong was 28th, An-
drew Weibrecht 30th and Ryan Cochran-Siegle, in his second World Cup start,
finished 31st and just out of the points.
“That was impressive,” said Rearick of rookie Cochran-Siegle’s run, “to be
able to come out of a big downhill crash and ski like that.”
Second was as good as a win for the
confidence of Switzerland’s Beat Feuz.
“I’m proud to be the top Canadian,” said
Jan Hudec of his downhill performance.
Cuche, Aksel Lund Svindal and Adrien Theaux
took the podium spots in the super G.