Canada's Erik Guay posts 5th-fastest training time at Lake Louise World Cup
France's Adrien Theaux leads pack as men prepare for Saturday's race
Erik Guay expects what was a rough ride for skiers in Friday's training run to be smoother for the season-opening World Cup downhill.
The 36-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the fastest Canadian in the lone training run for Saturday's downhill at Lake Louise, Alta.
Guay was fifth and nine-tenths of a second behind Frenchman Adrien Theaux, who posted the quickest time of the day in one minute 51.54 seconds.
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The first two training runs were cancelled because rain and warm temperatures made course conditions too soft, putting the pressure on to get one in Friday.
Guay had an advantage as the first man down the mountain. With the temperature hovering just below freezing, the track became more pliable as skiers thundered down it.
"The snow is not great. It's nobody's fault," Guay said. "The course workers did everything they could, but with the rain we had and the warm conditions, there's just nothing you could have done.
"The snow is soft in sections, crumbly and weirdly peely, but I would expect it to get better."
No precipitation in the immediate forecast and the mercury projected to fall to minus-seven overnight should improve conditions for Saturday. A super-G is scheduled for Sunday.
Remembering David Poisson
The morning inspection before Saturday's start will pack down the course, Guay said.
"I expect it, with a bunch of side slipping, to get a little bit firmer, a little bit harder and a little bit more grip," he said.
The men's World Cup in Lake Louise was cancelled last year for the first time because it was too warm to make snow, although the women's races went ahead the following week.
Matthias Mayer of Austria was second Friday in 1:51.89. Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, who swept the downhill and super-G in Lake Louise in 2014, was third in 1:52.23.
Skiers from all countries wore heart-shaped stickers on their helmets featuring French colours and the initials "D.P." in memory of French skier David Poisson.
He died in a training accident last week at nearby Nakiska ski resort. The French team distributed the stickers at the captain's meeting earlier in the week.
"We have this nice remembrance for him," Italian skier Werner Heel said. "We'll remember him the whole season. Not only this weekend."
Guay's back limits training
Guay is Canada's most decorated World Cup skier with a career 25 medals. He won the super-G title and a downhill silver at the world championships in February.
Back pain limited his training prior to Lake Louise and continued Friday.
"I did tweak it towards the bottom of the hill, so I'm feeling it tighten up right now," he said. "It's one of those things I hope it will . . . loosen up quickly and I can get onto my preparation for tomorrow."
Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., and Calgary's Tyler Werry were 14th and 15th respectively in Friday's training.
Vancouver's Manny Osborne-Paradis, who has won super-G gold and a pair of downhill silver in Lake Louise during his career, was 19th.
He hoped to draw an early start number for Saturday's race.
"With this snow, I think one to six is definitely the ideal area," he said. "Early is better."
Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., and developmental-team racer Jack Crawford of Toronto round out the six Canadians racing Saturday.
Dustin Cook of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., a world super-G silver medallist in 2015, was 61st in training. He'll race Sunday's super-G, but not Saturday downhill.
"If someone else if more deserving, they should definitely race," Cook said. "Super-G is for sure the focus."