Erik Guay claimed his first podium of the 2011-12 World Cup season Saturday with a second-place finish in the downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – site of his historic world championship victory last February.
The 30-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., dubbed the ‘King of Garmisch’ by his teammates due to the success he’s had here, might have recorded another victory had he not made a mistake in the middle section of the course. Guay, who now has five career World Cup podiums in Garmisch and also secured his 2010 super-G Crystal Globe on the Kandahar track, made up time on the lower part of the course but it wasn’t enough to prevent Swiss superstar Didier Cuche from taking the win.
Guay’s battling performance was the highlight of a superb day for the Canadian team. In addition to Guay’s result – which was also Canada’s first alpine skiing World Cup podium this season – Jan Hudec finished 12th, Ben Thomsen recorded his first top 30 result of the season in downhill with a 23rd-place finish and Conrad Pridy secured his first career World Cup top 30 by finishing 25th.
“I just can’t explain it,” Guay said of claiming yet another great result in Garmisch. “I just feel like I’m unstoppable when I get here. I’m obviously super happy to be on the podium today. I felt good and relaxed out there.
“I made a pretty big mistake in the middle and I probably lost the race there. That one mistake cost me.”
With the start moved down due to fog on the top of the course, Guay made a strong start before losing time in the middle section when his boot hit the snow. His time of one minute, 9.37 seconds looked like it might be good enough for the win but Cuche produced an almost flawless run to take the victory in a time of 1:09.10. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt was third in 1:09.40.
“Erik was lightning fast on the top and made a substantial mistake in the middle,” said Paul Kristofic, head coach of Canada’s men’s team. “He recovered quickly and found the speed right away and was super-determined and crazy fast in the bottom section.
“For sure, he was out to win the race and was skiing well enough to do it but when you are pushing on a sprint like this you have to risk everything and sometimes when you do that, you make mistakes.”
Guay, who recorded the fastest time in Friday’s training run, says he’s not sure why he’s had so much success in Garmisch. He claimed his first career World Cup victory in Garmisch in 2007 and seems very comfortable on what is often a fairly demanding track. Saturday’s second place result means five of his 16 career World Cup podiums have been earned in Garmisch.
Despite dealing with a shortened course Saturday and losing out to Cuche, Guay’s teammate Louis-Pierre Hélie, of Berthierville, Que., tweeted that his good buddy, “is still king of Garmisch.”
Hudec, of Calgary, Alta., also looked extremely fast in sections. Starting third, he made one big mistake that cost him time but still finished a creditable 12th in 1:09.74.
“Jan was first and then second in the splits before he made a mistake on the final left-hander. He showed great speed,” Kristofic said. “He’s disappointed he wasn’t able to capitalize on what was really an awesome run.”
Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., has endured a frustrating 2011-12 season to date and he was under pressure to perform in Garmisch. Starting 46th, he produced a battling effort to cross the line in 1:10.20 and finish in a tie for 23rd with Switzerland’s Beat Feuz.
“Finally!” said a relieved Thomsen from the finish area. “I put a good run together, finally.
“We were at the top watching Erik and even though he lost so much time in the middle section, he still came back. It was really inspiring. Even when you make a big mistake like that it’s not over until you cross the finish line.”
Pridy, who has been given a chance to show what he can do on the World Cup circuit after impressing as a member of the B.C. Ski Team, was also able to celebrate a breakthrough result. After making his World Cup debut in Lake Louise, Alta., in December, Pridy, of Whistler, B.C., recorded his first career top 30 World Cup result when his time of 1:10.26 put him in a tie for 25th with Switzerland’s Tobias Gruenenfelder.
“It was going to be my last race and I had a pep talk with (speed coach) Johno (McBride) last night,” said Pridy, who started 50th and was making his fifth World Cup start. “He told me I needed to bring it today and I had a good run – it turned out to be fast. I’m happy. It was a great day for Canada.”
Kristofic said he was delighted with what he saw from Thomsen and Pridy.
“To be able to do it from the back in a sprint downhill – I’m really proud of those guys,” Kristofic said. “From where those guys started barely anyone was able to get into the top 30. I was really psyched with the way Ben approached it and Conrad was absolutely on fire.”