A primer for Sunday’s men combined
BEAVER CREEK — In theory, it’s simple.
Be the fastest in the downhill and the fastest in the slalom, and you win the men’s combined.
It ain’t that easy.
And that is why Sunday’s race, which starts at 10 a.m. with the downhill and has the slalom at 2:15 p.m., is just wide open.
First off, the combined is not contested often, so we don’t have a big sample size like we do in the traditional disciplines. There have been only two this season — Switzerland’s Carlo Janka (Bib no. 22) won on home snow in Wengen and France’s Alexis Pinturault (21) won in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
The speedsters, mathematically, have the advantage because the downhill — Switzerland’s Patrick Kueng (not competing Sunday) won said event in 1 minute, 43.18 seconds — comprises a greater portion of the combined time than the slalom run, which is somewhere around a minute. That said, when the speed specialists, who usually don’t practice slalom during the season, try tackling the gates, chaos ensues.
The “Who has the advantage — speedsters or tech skiers?” debate in the combined is much like the “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?”
Think we’re joking? Fifty-five guys have World Cup points in downhill this year and 54 have scored in slalom. Only two of those guys also have points in both. They would be Ted Ligety (20), three points in DH and 26 points in slalom, and Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic (17), one point in the DH and 44 in the SL. And those aren’t point totals that make you stand up and say, “THAT GUY is going to win.” (That would be Monday’s women’s combined, when Slovenia’s Tina Maze is the unquestioned favorite.)
This is anyone’s race.
Format: The downhill starts at 10 a.m., followed by the slalom at 2:15 p.m. The best combined time wins.
The downhill: The course starts at 11,424 feet and drops 2,470 feet over 1.52 miles.
The slalom: The course is slightly shorter than a regular slalom at Beaver Creek with a lower start. It starts at 9,627 feet and drops 692 feet during 0.42 miles.
Defending Worlds champ: Ligety (still wearing bib No. 20).
Winners of combineds at Beaver Creek: Aksel Lund Svindal (2006, but not competing today), Daniel Albrecht (2007 and now retired) and Janka (2009, wearing No. 22).
Top five in points in downhill among those competing (in order of points with bib): Kjetil Jansrud (13), Domink Paris (25), Steve Nyman (38), Beat Feuz (29) and Matthias Mayer (8).
Top five in points in slalom among those competing (in order of points with bib): Marcel Hirscher (9), Pinturault (21), Victor Muffat-Jeandet (16), Kostelic (17) and Ligety (20). This was a long search. Hircher is the only top-five slalomer competing today.
Weather: Still balmy. The forecast is a high of 47 with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Winds are meant to be at 10-15 mph.
THINGS TO KNOW
Watch out on the downhill: We issue our standard warning about the Talon Turn. Pete’s Arena was also throwing people around on Saturday.
Watch out on the slalom: Who has air in their lungs? Beaver Creek has the highest altitude on the World Cup. With the base of the course at 8,935 feet, even these superbly conditioned athletes will be sucking wind.
Favorites: We use the term loosely. We’re listing the top five guys in combined points, based on two World Cup races: Janka (22), Alexis Pinturault (21), Victor Muffat-Jeandet (16), Kostelic (17) and Ondrej Bank (19). Ligety’s here, too, because he’s the defending champ.
Darkhorses: If Hirscher (9) is within 2 seconds after the downhill, this thing will be in his wheelhouse. It’s a big if. Maybe the following don’t belong in this category, but we really want to see Americans Steve Nyman (38) and Andrew Weibrecht (6) slalom.
Americans: Jared Goldberg (5); Weibrecht (6); Ligety (20); Tim Jitloff (24) and Nyman (38).
The picks: Nobody had Kueng on Saturday, so we start afresh.
Shauna Farnell, Vail Daily: Bank.
Chris Freud, Vail Daily: Pinturault
Pat Graham, AP Denver: Ligety.
Melanie Wong, Vail Daily: Ligety.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.