Erik Guay only returned to his skis on November 1 after surgery in the summer but if his form in Val Gardena is to be a guideline, the Canadian will be up fighting for the honours through the season. He won one of the training runs … and despite being eight tenths behind the leader in the finish at one point, recovered to win his fourth World Cup race. Until Guay came down it was looking like it would be a domination of the podium by Head racers as Kjetil Jansrud lead from Johan Clarey, Aksel Lund Svindal and Bode Miller. The four racers were tightly packed with less than three tenths separating the four racers.
Guay won the World Championship in Garmisch in 2011 yet has struggled at times to replicate that form. This season he has been a revelation. A partnership between the Canadian team and the Norwegians is paying dividends as the two teams share course reports. In the Super G Svindal and Hudec were on the podium, this time it was Guay and Jansrud who took the places on the podium.
Guay explained after the race that he feels that Val Gardena does not quite get the respect it deserves. According to FIS, ‘since the World Cup began in 1967, only KitzbÃ¼hel has hosted more men’s World Cup downhill races than Val Gardena (54). Therefore, the Saslong is considered one of the downhill classics and is known as one of the courses with the most terrain and most airtime. Its most famous characteristic are the seven big rolls which, due to the limited amount of snow this year made for more air time than in the past.’
While the Head racers piled up at the top of the results, Guay was scheduled to go down at 21. Val Gardena has a habit of changing the weather to allow later racers a chance of glory – Steve Nyman won from bib 39 last year. This year there was to be no repeat of this yet none of the leaders allowed themselves to relax and think that they could take the podium place until after Hans Olsson had been down from bib number 63.
For Johan Clarey, Val Gardena has been a happy hunting ground as well as a race that has seen heartbreak. He was leading two years ago when the race was cancelled due to high winds yet it was here that he took his only previous podium four years ago. Asked as the race was in progress how he felt things had gone and the smiling Frenchman would not tempt fate until the race was over!
When Svindal came down and went into third, you could see him looking at the times and working out how his run had gone. when he realised that it was his countryman and friend, Kjetil Jansrud in the lead he pointed his arm and fingers in the direction of the leaders enclosure and smiled. While this moved Miller down to fourth, Miller was not upset as he knew that he had skied fast. Miller knows that he is skiing well yet admitted that he needs a little more time on the skis to get the skis going faster. Svindal was amazed to see Miller going so fast in Giant Slalom, especially since he had been out for almost two years and was on the new skis.
For Olsson, the man many of the top racers feared, he thought his run had gone quite well yet when he crossed the line there had not been the same cheers as when he had come 15th the day before. Then he realised that although Â he was in 23rd, this had not been where he wanted to be. Olsson had had a taste of the success the day before and wanted more.
With this win Guay jumps up the leaderboard that is still headed by Aksel Lund Svindal. With Dominik Paris having crashed in the training run and sitting out the race to recover, Svindal now leads the field in the race for the Downhill Globe after three races by 53 points from Guay with Paris third and Jansrud jumping up to fourth and Clarey fifth.
With Hirscher not racing in the downhill Svindal has extended his lead to 175 points over the Austrian. Ligety is third and patrick Kueng and Bode Miller round out the top five.