Erik Guay wins Kvitfjell downhill

Erik Guay added another victory to his Canadian podium record Saturday when he won the men’s downhill in Kvitfjell, Norway, to record the 22nd top-three World Cup result of his illustrious career.

The 32-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., followed up his fourth-place finish in Friday’s first downhill with a hard-charging run that gave him the win by a large margin – 0.35 seconds – on a shortened course.

The 2011 world downhill champion, who tied and then broke Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski’s Canadian record of 20 World Cup podiums earlier this season before finishing 10th in the Olympic downhill in Sochi, Russia, now sits third in the overall World Cup downhill standings. Saturday’s victory was the fifth World Cup win of his career, his second this season and his fourth podium in Kvitfjell, where he won his first super-G in 2010.

Jeffrey Frisch, also of Mont-Tremblant, was the next best Canadian finisher as he tied for 17th – the second best World Cup result of his career and his best since 2007. Manuel Osborne-Paradis, of Vancouver, B.C., was 21st but the rest of the Canadians – including Olympic bronze medallist Jan Hudec – finished outside the top 30.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Guay, who clocked a time of one minute, 22.17 seconds. “The conditions here are quite soft and warm. Today I had a good start number – I probably had a little bit of an advantage – but I skied well and importantly, I skied really well at the bottom.

“I was looking to bounce back and find my form. The last couple of months have been tough on me, hurting my knee, and especially through the Olympics . . . when I have pain I have a hard time pushing through and finding confidence. I’m learning to ski that way. It’s not ideal but I want to finish the season strong.”

Guay had a superb post-Olympic season in 2010 as well. He followed up fifth-place finishes in the downhill and super-G in Vancouver, B.C., by winning the super-G races in Kvitfjell and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, as well as finishing third in the Garmisch downhill. That year he claimed the super-G Crystal Globe as the overall World Cup champion in that discipline. Following this weekend’s races in Kvitfjell, the next stop will be the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, with a downhill and super-G on March 12-13.

Guay had knee surgery last summer and aggravated his knee again in Wengen, Switzerland, in January. He battled through pain in Sochi and made a point of not blaming his knee for his results.

“I was trying not to mention it too much,” Guay said. “I couldn’t do a proper preparation for the Games – it had a big impact – but that’s the way it is in ski racing. I had a great start to the season and I guess it just wasn’t in the cards.

“The ideal situation is not to have pain. If I look at a guy like Jan Hudec, that’s probably one of his biggest strengths. I know he skis in a lot of pain . . . I try to emulate that. I would like to think it’s getting better.”

Johno McBride, Canada’s head speed coach, said Guay made the most of his starting position and produced a clean run that saw him take just the right amount of risk.

“He seemed like he was in a really good place last night, after the first downhill, and he showed that today,” McBride said. “He took advantage of his start number and really put the pedal to the floor.”

France’s Johan Clarey, who started ninth, was second in 1:22.52, while Austria’s Matthias Mayer was third (1:22.74). Guay sits third in the downhill World Cup standings with 357 points. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who tied for sixth on Saturday, leads with 525 points, while Austria’s Hannes Reichelt is second (360).

Frisch recorded only the second top-20 World Cup result of his career when he tied for 17th after starting 33rd Saturday. His time of 1:23.30 gave him the eighth top-30 World Cup result of his career and his third this season. His career best is a 12th-place finish, also in Kvitfjell, in 2007.

“My splits were really fast, but near the bottom of the course it was quite rough and I made two little mistakes that cost me a few tenths of a second,” Frisch said. “In such a close race I would have moved up a few spots without those mistakes. I have been skiing well all year but I was just not able to put it all together. I’m happy with this result and looking forward to tomorrow’s super-G.”

Osborne-Paradis, starting 25th, clocked a time of 1:23.36 to finish 21st, while Hudec – the first Canadian in 20 years to win an Olympic medal in alpine skiing – was first out of the gate and made several mistakes en route to a 44th-place finish in a time of 1:24.23. Olympian Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., was 43rd, while Conrad Pridy, of Whistler, B.C., was 50th, Dustin Cook, of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., was 59th and Whistler’s Morgan Pridy was 60th.

The action continues Sunday with the men’s World Cup super-G, also in Kvitfjell. Morgan Pridy will be the first man out of the gate with bib No. 1, while Osborne-Paradis goes sixth, Hudec – who sits seventh in the super-G World Cup standings – starts 22nd and Guay starts 23rd. Other Canadian starters are Frisch (42), Thomsen (46) and Conrad Pridy (56).