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Grandi, Guay lead Canadian efforts at Beaver Creek

Miller continues new-found dominance in speed events; Austrians starting to pick up pace

Mont Tremblant’s Erik Guay continued to shine for the Canadian team at Beaver Creek, Colorado last week, netting yet another top-30 finish for his collection.

He crossed the finish line of the challenging Birds of Prey super G course Dec. 2 in 16 th place, but could have finished higher without a mistake at the top of the course. Guay admitted that he still has a way to go mentally before he can find his way back to the podium.

"I think it was a fairly decent run starting from halfway to bottom," said Guay, who had the third-fastest final split. "I made a mistake at the top. You need to bring all your speed off the top part into the flatter area. I came in a little bit too direct, got pushed backseat, and sort of chucked that turn so I lost quite a bit.

"It’s just a matter of getting my confidence back and going harder, letting everything go more," said Guay, who finished 15 th in the downhill and 21 st in the super G at Lake Louise the previous week in his very first races after knee surgery last winter.

Austria’s Stephan Goergl came out of nowhere to win his first World Cup at Beaver Creek, while American Bode Miller, who had won the first three races of the World Cup season, had to settle for second. Mario Scheiber, another Austrian skier, was third.

Jan Hudec of Banff also made the points for Canada, finishing 26 th – his second top-30 of the season, and an encouraging sign that he has recuperated from a ligament tear last season.

"I skied as fast as I could," he said. "I just have to clean it up for tomorrow. Some points are better than no points. But my expectations were higher."

Francois Bourque of New Richmond, Quebec finished 35 th , and Whistler’s Jeff Hume was 49 th .

In the downhill the following day, the Canadians were shut out of the points while Bode Miller stepped up to claim his third victory in four races, ahead of teammate Daron Rahlves. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer was third.

Guay looked capable of a top-10 finish or possibly even a podium until he lost his timing on the lower section of the course. In the last hundred metres, Guay caught an edge on the snow, and skied through the finish line with one leg still up in the air. He was 36 th .

Jan Hudec was 38 th and Jeff Hume 53 rd .

That would be it for the men’s speed team. The technical team took over on Dec. 4 with a giant slalom.

Canmore’s Thomas Grandi was the lone bright spot for the Canadian team, in 13 th place, with teammates Francois Bourque and Jean-Phillipe Roy not finishing their first runs.

Grandi almost didn’t finish at all, with two big mistakes on one run.

After finishing 10 th on his first run, Grandi took a few chances on his second run and posted the fastest split in the middle section of the course. He made his first mistake off the Golden Eagle jump two-thirds of the way down the course, and then another error coming out of a corner near the bottom.

The 31-year-old Grandi, who proved last year that he skis better when he’s angry, may have some ammunition for his next race.

"The (mistake) that really cost me was right at the bottom, after I came out of that delay and then I was a little too straight I guess. I just couldn’t roll into that new turn and I started chattering and I just couldn’t stop. I just tried to survive at that point and lost a lot of speed. I basically was crawling through the last few gates," he said.

"I was furious because I knew I had a good run going. I felt I was knifing it and then I blew it at the bottom. I’d rather make a mistake than ski conservatively. As angry as I was for a split second, I’m happy with the way I’m skiing. I’m happy with my approach to the race today."

Grandi has yet to win a World Cup event, coming close last season with a silver medal in the slalom at Kitzbuehel, Austria. At 31 he’s the oldest member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, but Grandi’s definitely improving with age, ranking in the top-20 in the world last season for slalom and giant slalom.

Lasse Kjus of Norway took the GS win at Beaver Creek, followed by Hermann Maier and Benjamin Raich of Austria.

In the slalom on Sunday, the last World Cup event at Beaver Creek, Mont Tremblant’s Ryan Semple was the only skier to crack the top-30 with a 25 th place finish. Whistler’s Michael Janyk was 41 st , and Thomas Grandi and J.P. Roy both skied off course.

"Today is a good day," said Semple. "It’s the first slalom of the year and I qualified. I’m looking forward to the rest now."

Benjamin Raich took the top spot in the slalom, followed by Giorgio Rocca of Italy and Rainer Shoenfelder of Austria.

The technical racers remained at Beaver Creek for NorAm giant slalom events on Monday and Tuesday, before heading to France for a World Cup giant slalom at Val d’Isere.