Road To The Olympic Games

Alpine Skiing

Max Franz's blistering time holds up at downhill opener in Lake Louise

Max Franz of Austria was the first racer on the course and his blistering time held up Saturday in the season-opening World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alta.

Austrian earns 2nd career World Cup win

Austria's Max Franz celebrates his win following the men's World Cup downhill ski race at Lake Louise, Alta., on Saturday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

When Max Franz drew the No. 1 start bib for Saturday's season-opening World Cup men's downhill, he felt a jolt of adrenaline.

Going first in the start order isn't normally an advantage. The first man down the course doesn't get scouting reports from coaches about the angles and lines other racers take in the race.

Fresher snow on an unskied track can slow down a racer a precious tenth of a second.

So feeling he'd need a monster run, Franz threw down a time of one minute 46.18 seconds that none of the other 68 racers could beat.

Franz's wait pays off

It was an agonizing wait for the 29-year-old, however, as he watched the rest of the field try to challenge his time.

"Not fun," Franz said. "I didn't think it was enough, but the weather changed a little bit. Got a little bit windy and the luck was on my side."

He was the first Austrian man to win a Lake Louise downhill since Michael Walchhofer in 2010.

"The weather is perfect, the slope also," Franz said. "It's a really cool day for me."

Franz's downhill victory was the second of his career after his 2016 win in Val Gardena, Italy.

Italy's Christof Innerhofer followed Franz out of the start hut and placed second in 1:46.46.

Watch Max Franz win season opener in Lake Louise:

Franz was the first man down the course, his time of 1 minute 46.18 seconds held up for the victory. It's the Austrian's 2nd career World Cup win. 2:31

"It's difficult to say if it is good or not good to start at the front," Innerhofer said. "Nobody wanted number one. It was Max Franz.

"I get number two. Some guys say 'oh ... it will be not so good.' But I tried not to think if it was good or not good. I tried to think about my skiing. I must say I had fun."

Innerhofer's teammate Dominik Paris, starting 13th, was third just over half a second behind Franz.

"It got a little bit windy on the course," Paris said. "I was pushing really hard on the bottom. Max for sure did a really good run because he stayed in the lead.

"I'm really happy with third place. It's not easy starting the season. You don't know how it's going to go."

Defending overall World Cup downhill champion Beat Feuz of Switzerland placed sixth. Reigning Olympic downhill champ Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was eighth.

Thomsen top Canadian

Facing headwinds the early starters did not, Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was the top Canadian in 15th for his career-best result at Lake Louise.

"I was kind of shocked," Thomsen said. "I know the conditions I was dealing with and this is definitely not my course. I'm still kind of blown away."

The men will race a super-G on Sunday before heading to the next stop on the World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colo.

Friday's training run was cancelled due to poor visibility at the top of the course, but sunny skies made for ideal racing conditions Saturday.

The host Canadian team was depleted in the days leading up to the race. Erik Guay announced his retirement Thursday.

Watch CBC's Scott Russell as he catches up with Erik Guay on his decision to retire:

Scott Russell catches up with Canada's most decorated male skier Erik Guay to discuss his sudden retirement and his prolific career. 2:40

The 37-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., won 25 World Cup medals, three world championship medals including two gold, and a crystal globe as the overall World Cup super-G champion in 2010.

Vancouver's Manuel Osborne-Paradis, the last Canadian to stand on a Lake Louise downhill podium when he was second in 2014, broke bones in his leg in Wednesday's training and underwent surgery the following day.

Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., also required surgery earlier in the week. He suffered a season-ending knee injury while training at nearby Nakiska.

"Obviously losing two teammates to injury in the last two weeks, that was a bit tough on the spirit, but I think we've shown we're a tight-knit group," Thomsen said.

"Even though those guys are injured we're still talking to them and they're teammates of ours. They're supporting us and we're supporting them."

Toronto's James Crawford, North Vancouver's Brodie Seger, Calgary's Jeff Read and Vancouver's Sam Mulligan, finished 44th, 56th, 65th and 66th, respectively.

The four Canadians, all under the age of 22, arrived at Lake Louise with a combined 16 World Cup starts between them.

Meanwhile, Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was the top Canadian in 13th at a women's giant slalom in Killington, Vt., on Saturday.

She was 2.21 seconds back of winner Frederica Brignone of Italy. Gagnon was sidelined all of last season after dislocating her shoulder and tearing knee ligaments in a crash while downhill training at Lake Louise.

Mikaela Tommy from Wakefield, Que., was 26th. Valerie Grenier of Mont-Tremblant did not finish her second run.

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