All you need to know about the women’s downhill
Some races are more equal than others.
And even though we’ve had two fantastic super-Gs at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Beaver Creek, this is the downhill.
More specifically, this is the women’s downhill and Lindsey Vonn is in the house, wearing bib No. 22.
Yes, she won bronze on Tuesday in the super-G, which was great, but this was the race we were all imagining when we first heard that this area was getting these races back in 2010.
This is pressure, people. It’s not fair, but there is some truth to the following — she needs to win this race to complete her comeback from that knee injury during the 2013 Worlds in Austria. Yes, she has five wins on the World Cup circuit this year and leads the points in both downhill and super-G, but once she couldn’t make it back for the 2014 Olympics, this was the goal.
There’s also the sneaking feeling that the Austrians are starting to throw down as they normally do at Worlds. Anna Fenninger and Hannes Reichelt were golden in the super-Gs, and Fenninger won training on Thursday. (Yes, it’s only training, but Fenninger’s looking like she’s in the zone.) Fenninger would be wearing No. 16 today.
There’s also Tina Maze (bib No. 21). It’s a little early to start the Lasse Kjus talk — medals in all five events — but the Slovenian is formidable.
Everyone always forgets about Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg (17). Not only is she third in the super-G points, but she races well in the United States.
Do keep an eye out for Austria’s Cornelia Huetter (23). She was just off the podium on Tuesday.
Lara Gut (19), of Switzerland, won here at Raptor in 2013 in both the downhill and super-G. Like Vonn, she was blown away by the wind in Tuesday’s super-G.
This really has the potential to be a seminal moment in these Worlds. Do the Austrians continue to control the races? Does Maze make a charge at history? Or does Vonn stamp her mark on these Worlds with a win?
Like sands through the hour glass, we find out today, beginning at 11 a.m.
The facts and figures
The format: One run. Fastest time wins. As a side note, getting down in one piece is a bonus.
Stats: We’ve got 39 racers. The start is at 11,283 feet and drops 2,329 feet during 1.52 miles. Speeds should be 60-70 mph. The average grade is 16.7 degrees and the maximum slope is 30 degrees near Kestrel.
Weather: Weather.com says 51 degrees and sunny. Holy cow — 51 degrees in February. The ever critical wind is 5-10 mph. It’s important to note that said wind may be a little more intense up top, a key factor in Tuesday’s super-G. Remember, that if you’re watching at the bottom, the big grandstand and the other structures are blocking a lot of the wind you might feel. Check the flags on the grandstand.
Defending Worlds Champion: Marion Rolland, of France, the 2013 surprise winner. She’s not in the field.
Things to know
Watch out: After Tuesday’s super-G and other runs, the wind is the factor. We’ll be looking hard at splits at the end of The Runway and at The Gauntlet. Vonn fell behind in the latter during the super-G and then gained nearly a half-second on the lower, more sheltered parts of the course. If she’s in green numbers by The Gauntlet, then she could be on her way to victory.
Favorites: Vonn, Fenninger, Maze, Rebensburg, Huetter and Gut. Italy’s Elena Fanchini (20) won in Cortina, Italy. Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl (18) is always a factor and Switzerland’s Fabienne Suter (15) has been running well this week.
Dark horses: Is it time for Julia Mancuso (10) to bust out at Worlds? She looks much more comfortable on Raptor than she did in November 2013. Can Canada make it two in a row on the podium. Watch for Larisa Yurkiw (12).
Americans: Cook (9), Mancuso (10), Laurenne Ross (14) and Vonn (22).
The picks: The Vail Daily did well by going with Reichelt on Thursday. Sports Editor Chris Freud and ski goddess Shauna Farnell were right on the money. Pat Graham, of AP Denver, was looking good until Bode Miller crashed in The Abyss. For the women’s downhill, the trio, as well as the Vail Daily’s Melanie Wong, go with Vonn. We’re all in.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.