A guide to today’s downhill | VailDaily.com

A guide to today’s downhill

Special to the DailyThe downhill course at Birds of Prey.

BEAVER CREEK – Some quick facts on today’s race at 11 a.m.:Forecast: This is the $64,000 question. Will they race or not? Weather.com predicted 4-6 inches of snow Thursday night and another 2-4 today. The forecasted high is 34 degrees. It’s much colder than that on the race course.Defending champion: Bode Miller. He’s wearing bib No. 29.Previous Birds of Prey DH champions: Kristian Ghedina (Italy, 1997); Andreas Schifferer (Austria, 1997); Hermann Maier (Austria, 1998); Maier (1999 Worlds); Stephan Eberharter (Austria, 2002); Daron Rahlves (2003) and Maier (2003).Starting elevation: 11,427 feet

Finish elevation: 8,944 feetVertical drop: 2,484 feetLength: 8,606 feetLook out: Well, The Talon proved to be the killer turn in Thursday’s super-G, so don’t take that off the list. The Abyss is a concern no matter what the race. The Brink and Russi’s Ride should bounce some people around. The secret, though, may be the flat portion at the top of the course before The Flyway. You can lose seconds here.Intervals: At the top before the Flyway, before The Brink, The Pumphouse, Golden Eagle Jump and The Abyss.Fab Five: The top 30 again finishes with a flourish. Maier’s 26th, followed by Rahlves, Austria’s Fritz Strobl, Miller and Austria’s Michael Walchhofer. Of course, that’s what we said before the super-G. The podium’s bib Nos. were 7, 17 and 5. Nobody in the 20s made a charge. Will the low numbers have an advantage like Thursday?

Favorites: Common sense screams Maier or Rahlves. Maier’s record is ridiculous in DH at the Birds of Prey and Rahlves dearly wants to conquer this hill again. Miller? Who knows? It’s all or nothing with Miller – a DNF or a podium. Austria’s Christoph Gruber won training on Tuesday. And after Hannes Reichelt’s win in super-G, anybody in an Austrian uniform’s in this category.Dark horse: Using the low-bib number theory, Austria’s Andreas Schifferer at five, teammate Benjamin Raich at 10 and the Norwegians – Aksel Lund Svindal (12), Lasse Kjus (14) and Kjetil Andre Aamodt (15) are tempting.American watch: Give it up for Steve Nyman. The kid’s having a good week. He was the top American in training Tuesday. Thursday, he finished 25th with bib No. 54.Staff picks: OK, no one in this world had Hannes Reichelt Thursday, so we’re not going to beat ourselves up over it. But our picks all landed in the top 10. Give the rookie some credit. Ian Cropp, our newest reporter, had the best pick with Svindal, who was fourth. Shauna Farnell had Rahlves (fifth) and yours truly had The Herminator.DH picks:Cropp: Mother Nature (Second choice – sticking with Svindal)

Farnell: Sticking with RahlvesFreud: RaichSports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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