BORMIO, Italy — Aiming for back-to-back victories, Canada’s Erik Guay simply wants to maintain his form for Sunday’s World Cup downhill on the physically demanding Stelvio course.
The Bode Miller-led U.S. speed team, by contrast, is still looking for its first podium finish of the season — with the Sochi Olympics only 41 days away.
And if the final training session in Bormio was any indication, things haven’t changed much since last weekend, when Guay won the Val Gardena downhill and Miller finished fifth.
Guay also led training Saturday and Miller was fifth again.
“I feel like my racing is in a really good spot — better than it’s ever been,” Guay said. “And I know the reason as well, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Guay won the Val Gardena downhill last weekend but has never finished better than fourth in Bormio.
“Some years I come here and I’m intimidated by the course and I don’t feel quite up to it,” he said. “This year I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.”
While Guay would not reveal the “reason” for his speed, he did attribute some of his success to his personal coach, his younger brother Stefan Guay, a former World Cup racer.
“To start working well with a coach typically takes two years, sometimes three,” Guay said. “Stef now in his second season, I find he’s getting confident and better every time. So that instills a lot of confidence in myself.”
The Stelvio is known for its knee-jarring bumps and shadows, making it a serious physical test. And this year, there’s an added wrinkle with recent snowfall providing changing conditions all the way down.
“Up top it’s quite soft and then toward the middle it gets a little bit firmer and more choppy and then toward the bottom it’s standard Bormio — rock hard, fast, rattly,” Guay said. “So it’s got a little bit of everything and it takes a fine touch to adjust on the way down. But it’s a fun course.”
Miller is still working on his downhill form after a year off to recover from left knee microfracture surgery, but he’s comforted by top 10 results in both super-G and downhill last weekend, plus past success in Bormio. He swept the gold medals in super-G and downhill at the 2005 world championships here and also won the World Cup downhill in 2007.
“It hasn’t been the season that I had hoped but I’ve been making progress all year,” Miller said. “I look forward to hills that are a little bit tougher and a little more challenging and this one definitely is that.”
While Miller finished second to Ted Ligety in a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colorado, this month, no U.S. man has reached the podium in a speed race this season.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a slow start but we’ve definitely been building — slowly,” said Marco Sullivan, the veteran skier from Squaw Valley, California. “We have four or five guys who are consistently in the points, it’s just a matter of moving into that top 10.”
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