LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Being the first one to take the course, Max Franz had no idea if his run was particularly fast or podium worthy.
The Austrian racer watched and watched as racers tried to match his time. No one did.
Leading off, Franz turned in a blistering time Saturday to win the season-opening World Cup downhill. Franz finished in 1 minute, 46.18 seconds to hold off Christof Innerhofer of Italy by 0.28 seconds. Italy’s Dominik Paris was third, 0.54 seconds back.
“I had a really good run. But I made a little bit of a mistake,” Franz said. “It looks like it was a good line.”
Franz said the weather slightly changed, with the wind picking up near the top of the course.
“I had the luck on my side today,” he said. “It’s a really great day.”
This was the second career World Cup win for the 29-year-old Franz. He also won a downhill race in Italy nearly two years ago.
Franz began to believe his run was good enough to earn a spot on the podium after Swiss racer Beat Feuz wound up sixth. Feuz earned the crystal globe trophy a season ago for leading the downhill standings.
In recent weeks, Franz has been dealing with a knee issue. Coming into Lake Louise, he was unsure how it would hold up. But the first training run gave him confidence the knee was fine. The second training run provided a little more reassurance that he could push even more.
Innerhofer knew he had the speed to be on the podium after turning in the top time during Wednesday’s training session. Racing second, Innerhofer was on pace to top Franz before losing time near the bottom.
“I knew my run was not bad and hoped for top-10,” Innerhofer said. “Everyone says I’m the world champion in the training runs. Now I say it’s time to go up in the race, too.”
American Steven Nyman finished 11th, a spot ahead of teammate Bryce Bennett.
A super-G is set for Sunday before the men head to Beaver Creek, Colorado, for super-G, downhill and giant slalom races.