For the Men’s Downhill World Cup opener in Lake Louise, Alberta, Austrian Max Franz was the first out of the gate in a stacked field of competition. His time of 1:46.18 didn’t seem extraordinary, and as rookie NBC Sports commenter and U.S. Ski Team member Alice McKinnis noted, it probably wouldn’t be a podium time. But at the end of the day, it remained the fastest time on the course.
McKinnis was correct to be doubtful so early on. In a field that included defending World Cup Downhlll points champion Beat Feuz of Switzerland, 2014 Olympic Downhill Gold Medalist Matthias Mayer of Austria, and the 2018 Olympic Downhill Gold Medalist—and eight-time winner on the Lake Louise Downhill course—Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, it was hard for anyone to judge where exactly Franz would end up.
“Looks like I might be eating my words,” McKinnis said after bib 15, Feuz, finished his run with the sixth fastest time of the day. The Italian duo of Christof Innerhofer and Domonik Paris finished second and third, 0.28 and 0.54 seconds behind Franz’s time, respectively. This is Franz’s second-ever FIS World Cup Downhill victory, and his only other FIS World Cup gold medal came in Val Gardena in 2016.
The Americans represented well, mostly notably the return of Steven Nyman, of Park City, Utah. The 36-year-old U.S. Ski Team veteran was injured last season and missed the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Nyman returned to the international stage with a tremendous run at Lake Louse to finish 11th overall, 1.21 seconds off the leader. He just nudged out fellow American Bryce Bennet, of Squaw Valley, Calif., by 0.03 seconds, who finished 12.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle, of Starksboro, Vt., would end up 20th, 1.61 seconds behind Franz. Tommy Biesemeyer, of Keene, N.Y., would finish 33, 2.29 seconds behind the winner, and only 0.01 seconds ahead of Aspen, Colo.’s Wiley Maple, who finished 34 overall. Travis Ganong, of Squaw Valley, Calif., finished 38, 2.56 seconds off the leader, and Jared Goldberg, of Holladay, Utah, finished 47, 3.00 off of Franz’s time.
The biggest surprise of the day was not seeing any Norwegians on the podium. The 2018 Olympic Downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal, who is recovering from a recent hand injury, did not use his poles at all out of the gate, likely hoping to make up time later on the course. He is the winningest skier on the Lake Louise downhill, with 8 wins total, which is double the amount of the second winningest Lake Louise Downhill skier, Hermann Maier. Svindal would end up T-8 with Matthias Mayer, 0.80 seconds off the lead. Fellow “Norwegian Vikings” Kjell Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde finished 13th and 15th, respectively.
On November 25, 2018, the men will take on Lake Louise’s Super-G course, while the women, in Killington, will race in the slalom event. Be sure to follow SKI Magazine on Facebook at Twitter to stay up-to-date on the entire FIS Alpine World Cup this season.