France’s Adrien Theaux, Johan Clarey lead way in Birds of Prey training | VailDaily.com

France’s Adrien Theaux, Johan Clarey lead way in Birds of Prey training

BEAVER CREEK — Vive la France.

Frenchmen Adrien Theaux and Johan Clarey went 1-2 on Wednesday, Nov. 29, with Italian Peter Fill in third as the first of two downhill-training sessions kicked off the 2017 FIS Birds of Prey World Cup week of racing in Beaver Creek.

And despite the unseasonably warm weather, the Birds of Prey course held up well, receiving raves from the racers.

"The snow is actually beautiful," Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal said. "I would say the course crew in Beaver Creek is probably the best in the world. I feel like we always have perfect conditions."

Sizing up the field

Theaux was the first out of the gate on Wednesday, and his time of 1 minute, 42.33 seconds held for the day.

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For whatever it's worth, Svindal won the 2015 Birds of Prey downhill with a 1:42.34.

Most racers were using training No. 1 as a get-to-know-the-course day, but Theaux certainly has the resume to do well here.

He took bronze in super-G during the 2015 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships at Beaver Creek and was the No. 9 ranked downhiller in the world last winter.

While Clarey is still looking for his first World Cup win, Italy's Fill in third is no surprise. He's only the defending World Cup downhill champion.

Matthias Mayer (fourth) and Hannes Reichelt (10th) represented Austria. Mayer is the reigning Olympic downhill champion, and has four World Cup wins, including a super-G win at Kitzbuehel, Austria, a career booster for anyone skiing for the red and white, at the age of 27. Mayer was second last weekend in the Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill.

Reichelt is no stranger at Birds of Prey. He has three super-G World Cup wins here, as well as gold in the same discipline during 2015 Worlds.

After all of the success in super-G at Beaver Creek, he has another goal this week.

"All the success I've had is in super-G," Reichelt said. "Downhill, I have to push a little bit more. On downhill, I don't have so good results. My goal for this year is to make good results in downhill."

France's Brice Roger took fifth, followed by American Travis Ganong in sixth, a result he hopes is good sign after a rough weekend — 48th in downhill and 16th in super-G — in Canada.

"It was good," Ganong said. "I was struggling last weekend up in Lake Louise, so I wanted to come down here, get some good feelings and push hard. Yeah, I skied fast today. It was a good start for the week to set the tone."

Norway has a tendency to set the tone. Kjetil Jansrud, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, and Svindal were 7-8-9.

Jansrud and Svindal need no introduction to Birds of Prey. Svindal has five career wins here and is the defending Birds of Prey downhill champ. Jansrud won the 2014 downhill here and has five other podium finishes at Beaver Creek.

"I was a little on the defensive side," Jansrud said. "I need to step it up a bit. But that's the plan. First training run of a downhill, you want to stay on the safe side. All the jumps are running fine. I'll bring it tomorrow."

Kilde may not be as familiar to Beaver Creek audiences, but he's an up-and-comer. He had two top 10 finishes — sixth in downhill and fourth in super-G — last weekend in Lake Louise.

Good snow

The bigger drama of training was the condition of the course itself. Racers agreed that it was pristine.

"The course, the slope is in pretty good condition, so respect for the organization committee," Reichelt said. "They did a really good job."

With one day of training done, Saturday, Dec. 2's downhill is a go. International Ski Federation rules require one day of training on site for a downhill to be held.

The athletes will get a second round of training on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 11 a.m. before the racing starts with super-G on Friday, Dec. 1, at 10:45 a.m.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

Birds of Prey 2017

Thursday, Nov. 30

Downhill training, 11 a.m.

Friday, Dec. 1

Men’s super-G, 10:45 a.m.

Saturday, Dec. 2

Men’s downhill, 11 a.m.

Sunday, Dec. 3

Men’s giant slalom, 9:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.