Erik Guay ready for return to racing after lost season
Canadian alpine podium leader takes part in 1st World Cup action in 20 months
Erik Guay will battle both his emotions and Norwegians in his first World Cup race in 20 months.
Canada's most decorated downhiller returns to racing Saturday in Lake Louise, Alta., after an entire season on the sideline.
Guay was consistently quick in three training runs for the season-opener. The 34-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., tied for fourth Friday after finishing third and sixth in the two previous dress rehearsals.
But Norway's Kjetil Jansrud and Axel Lund Svindal are the favourites in Saturday's downhill. A super-G follows Sunday.
Jansrud swept both races in Lake Louise a year ago. He was the fastest in training a second straight day Friday. Jansrud and Svindal were one-two and their positions were reversed in Wednesday's first training run.
Guay underwent a pair of surgeries on his left knee in the spring of 2014. A slow recovery turned what was going to be a shortened World Cup season into a lost one in 2014-15.
His last World Cup race was a super-G in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on March 13, 2014.
"I haven't been in the start gate for a long time, so we'll see how it runs tomorrow," Guay said Friday.
"That's going to be another thing to probably try to keep under control, is the nerves and the excitement. It can go two ways.
"One is you're so excited, you push out and you're in that tight position and that's not good. You want to stay smooth and relaxed. But too relaxed and you're going to be slow and round."
Guay owns 22 World Cup medals, a world championship downhill gold from 2011 and the World Cup super-G overall title in 2010. His best result in Lake Louise is a downhill silver in 2003.
After a season of no additions to his trophy case, Guay was ready to step into his race skis and point them down in Lake Louise.
"I missed it a lot," he said. "When you sit at home watching people on TV, you have a lot of time to think and ponder about the future and about everything.
"I knew I wasn't done because I was watching people and I was fired up and I felt like I could ski better than most of the people out there. I still have that competitive spirit."
The forecast for Saturday's race is sunny with a temperature nearing minus-2 C by the afternoon. Skiers late in the start order will face softening snow.
Calgary's Jan Hudec withdrew from the downhill because of his right knee. The Olympic super-G bronze medallist in 2014 had surgery on it in January and it flared up in training last week.
Manny Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., was runner-up in last year's downhill. He was 27th on Friday, but the 31-year-old said his run was an improvement on the previous day when he caught his edges several times.
"Today is the first training run I can build off of — where I was skiing well, and I took some risks in certain places and didn't take risks elsewhere and I can follow what the better guys, faster guys are doing," Osborne-Paradis said.
"I can figure out a line and have a real set plan for tomorrow where yesterday, it was kind of a write-off."
Svindal is a four-time winner in Lake Louise with three super-G victories and one in downhill. He raced only the world championship last year because of a torn Achilles tendon. In his absence, Jansrud claimed the overall World Cup crowns in downhill and super-G.
This season's race for those titles could come down to the two Norwegians.
"You just look at who is consistent over the three days," Guay said. "That's typically a good sign of who is the man to beat come race day.
"I'd almost go out and say it's more likely a race for third place than first and second because I feel like they're skiing very solid these days. I watched race tape yesterday and you could see some of the guys pushing it, the race line and taking some chances.
"The Norwegians weren't. They were just skiing well. They make it look easy right now and other people are struggling to get that same speed."
With files from CBC Sports