Using Canada's Erik Guay as a gauge, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal knew what to do to win the season-opening World Cup downhill at Lake Louise on Saturday.
The chatter between coaches and racers at the start hut was whether anyone could beat Austrian Max Franz, the third man down the mountain whose time remained the fastest deep into the starting lineup.
Guay had the No. 20 start bib and Svindal No. 22, so the big Norwegian took a reading off the Canadian's run.
"I asked the Canadians how Erik did when he was going, if he was matching up with times or losing anywhere," Svindal explained. "He's a good skier and if he lost a lot [of time] in a section without a mistake, then obviously it would be the conditions.
"He was right there, so I was like 'OK, it's still possible.' But you definitely have to put one down. I figured I had to risk if I wanted to try and get this win."
Svindal earned his fourth career World Cup victory at Lake Louise, but first in downhill after three super-G wins. His time was one minute 48.31 seconds on the three-kilometre Olympic course.
Franz was second in 1: 48.95 followed by a tie for third between last season's downhill champion Klaus Kroell of Austria and Marco Sullivan of the U.S. in 1.48.97.
Guay, from Mont-Trem-blant, Que., was sixth in 1: 49.48. He was second when he crossed the finish line and pumped his fists in triumph.
The 31-year-old was quickly trumped by Kroell and Svindal, the next two men down the hill, and then later by Germany's Tobias Stechert, who finished fifth, and Sullivan.
Guay felt satisfied with his race because arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in late September limited his time on snow to prepare for Lake Louise.
Svindal can complete a Lake Louise sweep with a win in today's super-G.
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