Beat Feuz of Switzerland and Klauss Kroell of Austria flashed down the Kvitfjell course in exactly the same time Friday to shared the top podium in a men’s World Cup super-G race.
Kroell and Feuz both finished in one minute, 32.35 seconds on the Olympic course, only 0.03 seconds ahead of Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, who led both training sessions. The top 10 racers were separated by a mere six-tenths of a second.
The Canadian men – who earlier this season stood on World Cup podiums for four consecutive weeks – saw their hot streak cool off, as Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished ninth, only 0.62 second behind the winner. Jan Hudec of Calgary was 13th, also within a second of a win on the 2.5-km long, 44-game course.
Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., started 63rd and finished 40th and Dustin Cook of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., was 41st. Canada’s men are the seventh-best performers among all nations in the World Cup with 19 top-10 finishes so far this season. Austria – which has 12 victories – leads in consistency with 98 top-10s. Italy is a distamt second with 46.
The super-G, which replaced a cancelled race at Germany’s Garmisch-Paertenkirchen, was the first of three weekend speed events at Kvitfjell. A downhill will be raced Saturday and another super-G Sunday.
Guay should have found the Kvitfjell track and icy run to his liking. He won the super-G Crystal Globe in 2010 and has had three World Cup podiums in Kvitfjell. But he said he didn’t do enough to attack the Kvitfjell course, while Hudec was disappointed with the way his skied the middle section in what he described as “very much a drag race.”
“It’s a tough course. The snow changed completely from yesterday,” said Guay, “You needed to stick your nose out and take some chances. I just had a bit of an off day, mentally. I didn’t feel that confident. I didn’t take (enough) chances.”
Guay had a time of 1:32.9. He started Canada’s podium streak in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, when he finished second in the downhill on Jan. 28. Hudec, Guay and Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., then famously finished 1-3-5 in downhill in Chamonix, France, before Thomsen claimed his first career World Cup podium with a second place in downhill at the Olympic test event in Sochi, Russia. Last Friday, Hudec recorded his first career World Cup super-G podium with a second-place finish in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
Hudec slipped from third to fifth in the tight super-G World Cup points standing.
“No excuses. The course was perfect, the snow was perfect,” said Hudec, who stopped the clock in 1:33.21. “I skied too conservative in the middle. I just didn’t trust myself.”
Robbie Dixon, of Whistler, B.C. – returning from a concussion – Louis-Pierre Hélie, of Berthierville, Que., and Jeffrey Frisch, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., missed gates and did not finish.
“I expected we would be a bit quicker across the board and a few young guys would pop in there,” said Johno McBride, the head speed coach. “It was a good opportunity to score some points today. I’m not satisfied.”
The speed races are crucial for in his hunt for the 2012 overall World Cup title as the 24-year-old Swiss tries to put a cushion between himself and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic.
Only Feuz raced in Norway on the course built for the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games. Feuz came from third spot in the standings to take the lead over Hirscher by five points and Kostelic by 97.
Kostelic, who underwent an MRI examination and minor surgery after finishing the Rosa Khutor course in pain at the test event of the Sochi Olympic course Sochi test, won’t be back in action before next weekend in Kranjska Gora.
“After the downhill practice, this was totally unexpected,” said Feuz, who woke up to sunny, minus-2 degree conditions, making for an icier course than in previous days.
“It's a big surprise but it’s a great one,” he said after his fourth victory of the season.
Fuez has been consistent and versatile, with ten podium results in downhill, super-G and combined. Fuez has only three victories against eight for Hirscher and six for Kostelic.
Feuz and Kroell both earned their first World Cup downhill victories at Kvitfjell in recent years.
“I don't mind being joint first,” said Kroell. “You get the same number of points and the same bonus. This is a great boost ahead of tomorrow's downhill. The downhill World Cup remains my big goal.”
In the over all World Cup ranking for all men’s events, Hudec is the best in Canada at 16th. He also has the best ranking in an individual discipline for a Canadian, fifth in super-G. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal leads the super-G standings with 333 points, ahead of Swiss veteran Didier Cuche, who was fourth Friday and sits second in the rankings with 331 points. Feuz is third (308), Kroell is fourth (254) and Hudec fifth (230). Guay is 11th with 145 points.
Guay stands 17th in the over all World Cup and his best discipline is the downhill, where he seventh on the points list. The intrepid 37-year-old Cuche is the downhill leader, 26 points ahead of Kroell is second in the downhill standings.