Canada’s red-hot men’s speed team racked up a fifth podium in as many races Friday as Jan Hudec secured his first career super-G World Cup top-three finish with a second place result in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. The 30-year-old from Calgary, Alta., took full advantage of an early start position in warm conditions and soft snow to lay down a lightning-fast time that only Swiss superstar Didier Cuche was able to overcome.
Starting sixth, Hudec took an aggressive line and attacked the course to claim his fourth career World Cup podium and his second this season following his victory in the downhill in Chamonix, France, on Feb. 4. Hudec’s teammate Erik Guay, of Mont-Tremblant, Que. - the 2010 super-G Crystal Globe winner - was 13th Friday, while Jeffrey Frisch, also of Mont-Tremblant, earned his first top-30 World Cup result since 2009 with a 23rd-place finish.
“Thank goodness. I’m glad I finally got one in super-G,” said Hudec, who clocked a time of one minute, 33.27 seconds. “It was a little bit bumpy when I went down but it really deteriorated for the other guys. It was like plus-10 on the hill. “The streak is pretty awesome. We just need to keep the momentum going. The other guys who have been part of the streak are really disappointed today but Erik definitely knows he can be in there. I think he will be out to get one tomorrow.”
Hudec crossed the line with a lead of 0.46 seconds and for a while it looked like it would be enough to claim the win. But Cuche, who was wearing bib 20, laid down a superb run of 1:33.11 to take the lead by 16-hundredths of a second. Austria’s Benjamin Raich, who came down right after Cuche, finished third in 1:33.32.
“I had a feeling it wasn’t enough,” said Hudec, who is now ranked fourth in the world in super-G. “I was a little bit conservative at the bottom and I know that left a window open for someone else. No one was really close to me at the top but if anyone can sneak in there, it’s Cuche.”
Hudec’s second-place finish builds on the men’s speed team’s recent hot streak and a thrilling run of podiums. Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., was second at the last downhill in Sochi, Russia, a result that came a week after Hudec, Guay and Thomsen finished 1-3-5 in the second downhill in Chamonix – the best result for the men’s speed team since 1994. Guay got the streak going on Jan. 28 with a second-place finish in the downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
“We’re keeping it rolling,” said Johno McBride, the speed team’s head coach. “What the secret? More than anything it’s good energy and a sense of confidence. Guys are believing in what they are doing and believing in themselves.”
Guay, the reigning world downhill champion, wasn’t able to keep his string of top results going as he finished in 1:33.93. Frisch, meanwhile, built on the two Nor-Am Cup podiums he earned in Aspen, USA, earlier this month to record the fourth top-30 World Cup result of a career that has been interrupted by injuries in recent years.
“I think setup might have been an issue with Erik. It turned out like spring mashed potatoes out there,” said McBride of the soft conditions. “I’m happy with Jeffrey. I told him he had to score here to go to Norway (Kvitfjell World Cup, next week) and he’s done that today.”
Dustin Cook, of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., was 35th in 1:35.86, while Louis-Pierre Hélie, of Berthierville, Que., was 45th in 1:36.84. Thomsen, a breakout star on the World Cup circuit following his second-place finish in the downhill in Sochi, had an uphill battle Friday because he started 68th in difficult conditions. Thomsen clocked a time of 1:37.12 to finish 47th. “Benny’s timing was a little off,” said McBride. “Cook and Louis were not bad but they are going to have to be better to get into the points.”
Hudec came agonizingly close to a second podium in as many days when he finished fifth in Saturday’s Audi FIS World Cup super-G in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.