Saturday, December 21, 2013

Guay Takes Victory in Val Gardena

The Val Gardena Downhill has been marked in the past year by extreme un-cooperating weather, but this year the Saslong’s luck finally changed, just in time to celebrate the 50th men's World Cup Downhill race.
This morning teams woke up greeted by a clear and sunny sky, providing the perfect conditions for one of the most exciting downhills on the Tour.
Since the World Cup began in 1967, only Kitzbühel has hosted more men's World Cup Downhill races than Val Gardena (54). Therefore, the Saslong is considered one of the Downhill classics and is known as one of the courses with the most terrain and most airtime. Its most famous characteristic are the seven big rolls which, due to the limited amount of snow this year made for more air time than in the past.
Erik Guay counts only one Downhill victory until today, when with a flawless run he conquered the Saslong.
Four times is how often Erik Guay was on the podium in Val Gardena/Gröden, but never had he won. Which explains his excitement with today’s victory. His time of 1 minute, 56.65 proved too fast to beat for the rest of the field and he walked away with his fifth podium at the Italian venue, and first victory.
"It’s incredible for me to win today", a very happy Guay said. "After all I have gone through this summer, and knowing that I have had knee surgery only this August makes today amazing. I had no training until November but Val Gardena has been good to me, I was third here last year and I knew I could do well again. With Jan’s podium yesterday and my victory  today this has been an awesome and fun weekend".
With a fourth and sixth place in the training runs, Kjetil Jansrud showed he could be one to watch in today’s race, and today he sure was. He skied a fantastic run and led the race for 11 numbers, until Guay beat him by a mere 0.12 seconds. Jansrud started as a GS specialist but quickly developed into an all round skier, winning the super-G in Kvitfjell last year and earning two Downhill podiums in 2012 (Kvitfjell and Beaver Creek).
"I am very happy with my skiing, especially how I did on top. I probably shouldn’t have been so defensive in the bottom part, I really lost too much time to Erik but I am very happy with my second place. After a year of injuries there is nothing to complain, I now have two downhill podiums and that feels great", Jansrud said after his run.
Johan Clarey was very hesitant to join Guay and Jansrud at the leaderboard as Val Gardena is one of those venues where it is not unusual for higher numbers to come down and mess the leaders’ celebration plans. But this year Clarey had no reason to fear as his time proved too fast for the back of the pack and he remained third, 0.24 seconds behind Guay. It’s the second career podium for Clarey who celebrated his only other one at this venue in 2009.
"I was worried this podium might not happen for me today", a smiling Clarey said after realizing he would remain on the podium. "In the past I so often got bumped off the podium and I was worried until almost the very end. I am relieved for once things went my way!".
The speed session is over and it’s time to move over to the next valley, as there is no time to waste, on Sunday the traditional Gran Risa giant slalom, the last race before a short Christmas break will be taking place in Alta Badia.

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