Cuche bests Guay to win downhill on Kandahar course
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN,Germany—The Kandahar isn't Erik Guay's hill anymore. Didier Cuche got his third downhill victory of the season and also a little redemption from the 2011 World Ski Championships when he lost to Guay on this very hill.
“It's funny,” said Cuche with a grin. “It's nice to be on the top of the podium and have Erik in second place. And I think the difference between first and second is quite the same that we had in World Championships.”
After announcing his retirement in Kitzbuhel on Jan. 19, Cuche is two-for-two in downhill victories.
"I think it speaks enormously about his character, to be able to quit while you are on top," Guay said about Cuche. "Yeah we're going to miss him in some ways but in some ways like this [referring to losing to him today] we won't miss him so much."
Due to thick fog, the downhill start was lowered to the super G start, a vertical drop of 538 meters versus the full course of 920 meters. With a time of 1 minute, 09.10 seconds, Cuche bested second place Guay by 0.27 seconds and third place Hannes Reichelt by 0.30 seconds.
Cuche was near perfect coming through the Eishang and off the Kramersprung jump. Like Guay, he made fast time at the bottom where other racers struggled. His run was clean, but Guay made some mistakes higher on the course that cost him the victory. One boot hit the snow, and he hip checked into the turn. “I had a great line into the Eishang,” he said, “thought I was pulling it off perfectly then just booted out...I said ah it's over because that's such a critical part of the course.”
Yet he recovered but went well wide on his line. He did make up some time through the last split where others lost speed. Guay said he had to push it to make up some time. “I knew I had to take some chances to be fast and competitive,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised to be honest, to see that time in the finish. I thought I'd be way out. It was a short downhill, every little mistake counts.”
The bottom of the course proved difficult for the athletes, especially after many criticized the course preparations on Thursday's first training run saying it was variable from powder—due to last weekend's snowfall—to ice chunks, and from bumps to holes. Cuche skied out on purpose on Thursday to avoid a hole: “The course wasn't good, and that shouldn't happen,” he said after winning today. “On the first day, it was more risky than anything else.”
Today, it was much smoother, but nonetheless many athletes lost time in that last split.
“It was actually smoother than the last few days,” said Andrej Sporn, who tied for fourth with Christof Innerhofer. “But it's a really tough turn. It's important there that you are on the outside ski and build speed through the turn and not just skiing the turn so you can make more speed coming down to the finish.”
Cuche said he just had to ski fast to win and did so with the help of his trusted serviceman. “Big thanks to my serviceman because on a shorter course, it's even more important to have good skis because we started on the flat section," he said. "Thanks to Chris again, he did a really great job.”
Favorite Bode Miller had challenges starting on Friday night during the public bib draw. He showed up 3 minutes late, was fined $999 Swiss francs, and was moved to the back of the start list from position 16 to 46. After skiing from his new assigned starting spot to 35th place, he quickly left the finish area without speaking to reporters.
“Rules are the rules and if you're late that's how it has to be,” Guay said about the situation. “If you straddle you're disqualified, if you're late for the start then your disqualified, what can I say?”
The Super G is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Click here to view video race recap from Cuche, Guay, and Innerhofer
By Vanessa Pierce