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Beaver Creek Birds of Prey: Familiar faces top Day 1 training

BOP Ligety, Ted DT 11-30-10
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BEAVER CREEK – Pop quiz: Who won the first run of training at last year’s Birds of Prey?

Doubtless, you had Switzerland’s Ambrosi Hoffman. His then relatively-anonymous teammate Carlo Janka finished 32nd.

Switzerland’s Didier Cuche took Tuesday’s opening round of downhill training as the field started to ramp up for Friday when racing begins in earnest. Cuche finished in 1 minute, 47.80 seconds, followed by France’s Adrien Theaux (1:48.37), and Austria’s Michael Walchhofer (1:48.46).



“I don’t think it (sets) the tone (for) the week,” Cuche said, pausing to glance at the scoreboard to find his name on top of the list. “It’s making me more confident on the week. I have to look for the grip on the skis, the boot and I feel OK with the decisions I take without searching so much. Hopefully, we can make another training run to try another set of skis.”

Two more days of training are on the schedule – today and Thursday, both at 11 a.m. But weather concerns prompted FIS and Beaver Creek officials to add Tuesday’s training run. Under FIS rules that require a training run before speed events, the biggest news Tuesday was that by having a practice run, Friday’s downhill and Saturday’s super-G are a go, weather permitting.



However, the training results did have a rather familiar look for Beaver Creek. Cuche has 16 top-10 finishes at Birds of Prey, including a win in super-G in 2002. He was second in last year’s downhill and seventh in giant slalom.

While Theaux is a bit of a newcomer, Walchhofer is anything but. The Austrian has 15 top-10s at Birds of Prey and was the 2007 downhill champ.

After Walchhofer came teammates Klaus Kroell, Hans Grugger and Georg Streitberger, making for a distinct and familiar red-and-white streak on the results sheet.



Canadian Erik Guay, who describes himself as a slow starter to the season, took seventh. He has two podiums here (third in the 2008 downhill and second in the 2005 super-G).

Bode Miller checked at No. 8, followed by Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, and those two are both multiple winners at Birds of Prey. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud rounded out the top 10.

Please note that Janka was 32nd last year on Day 1 of training, and proceeded to sweep all three races in 2009. The defending overall champ was 23rd Tuesday.

“Training for me is not always the best,” he said. “For me, it was OK. Get a second one and I’m ready for the weekend.”

After Miller for the Americans, Steve Nyman was 16th, Travis Ganong 24th, Erik Fisher 38th, Andrew Weibrecht 45th, Ted Ligety 56th and Marco Sullivan 57th.

News, notes and quotes from the first day of training:

Post Olympics

Svindal took gold in the super-G, silver in the downhill and bronze in the GS last winter up in Vancouver, British Columbia. While it’s nice to have the full set and was a goal for Svindal, he’d rather be focusing on regaining the overall title, which he won in 2007 and 2009.

“Definitely, the Olympics are special, but I had some good years before that,” he joked.

Svindal, who was eighth in GS points last year, said he’s been working on that discipline with the hopes of moving into the top three there. Consistency is his key if he wants to topple Janka.

“You can’t have down periods like I had last year,” Svindal said. “You have to be making points all through the year.”

American Weibrecht has the moniker of “defending super-G bronze medalist” after Vancouver.

“No, right now, I’m coming-back-from-shoulder-surgery Andrew Weibrecht,” he said. “No, I feel the same. I’m trying to find my speed for this weekend.”

Repeat three-peat?

In all likelihood, anything that Janka does this weekend will pale in comparison to his performance last year. By winning three races in as many starts here, he joined Hermann Maier as the only two to do so at Beaver Creek.

Janka is downplaying expectations.

“Of course, every year, it’s not possible to win three races in three days,” the overall champ said. “We will see what I get. I will try my best and, if one time I am on the podium, I will be happy.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the field was praising Janka to the hilt.

“I set myself to Carlo. He is such a talent,” said his teammate Cuche who is 36, 12 years older than Janka. “I think he has something – I’m not sure more than the other guys – he has something in the blood. His eyes just see the fast line on inspection. He’s just staying cool, quiet and doing his job.”

“Carlo is just super-solid,” Ligety said. “He makes all of his turns from the center of his ski. He very, very rarely gets off-balance. That allows him to have the confidence in his skiing and to go fast. … When your technique isn’t as consistent, it’s hard to have confidence.”

Just cruising

Speaking of Ligety, the defending World Cup GS champion called Tuesday “a cruiser run.” The Park City, Utah, native has been considering expanding his skill set to make a run at the overall, but is taking it slowly.

Ligety said that he will race in downhills, if he’s going well, but knows that GS is his “bread and butter.”

The 2006 combined gold-medalist has finished third (2006), fourth (2007), second (2008) and fourth (2009) in the Birds of Prey GS, so he knows he’s close.

“I think it’s any given day and the luck of it,” Ligety said. “Hundredths (of a second) aren’t something you necessarily make up by tangible things. You just need a little luck on your side. It’s tough to say what it’s going to take – clean skiing and some mistakes by the other guys.

“The nice thing about being up there enough is that you know you’re fast enough. If you’re always in the top five, you know you’re fast enough to win.”

Nyman picks Nyman

The American from Provo, Utah, is finally healthy. His back is back and he’s gotten both of his knees cleaned out. The question now is getting back into the skiing groove mentally.

Nyman, when healthy, has a good history here. He was second in the 2007 downhill and third in 2006. That year, he also finished 13th in the super-combined, an excellent finish given that the big 28-year-old isn’t exactly known for his slalom.

Talk in the press coral turned to his website fantasyskiracer.com, where fans can try to pick the top 10 of each race and accumulate points throughout the season, just like fantasy football.

Nyman, who wasn’t very much into football until the U.S. Men’s Ski Team got an NFL league going, hopes that fantasyskiracer.com has the same effect on possible World Cup fans.

“I think the beauty of it is you pick your racers and you pay attention to your racers,” Nyman said. “We’re creating a platform to do research where you can understand ski racing more, the history of the hills. Ski racing has a lot of history. I think you can follow that and help predict results through that.”

And, yes, Nyman picks himself to win on the site.

Welcome to The Show

Ganong is one of the new faces on the U.S. Ski Team. All of 22 and from Squaw Valley, Calif., he picked up his second World Cup points on Sunday by finishing 20th in the super-G up at Lake Louise, Alberta.

Tuesday was his first go as a competitor at Birds of Prey, though he did forerunning in 2008.

His American teammates are effusive when it comes to Ganong’s talent, but the youngster knows that he has a bunch to learn when it comes to this level.

“Experience is the biggest thing, especially for downhill,” Ganong said. “If you have a question for a section (of the course) or how it skis, (my teammates) have so much knowledge. It’s really valuable to talk to them.”

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

Birds of Prey 2010

From Tuesday’s Captain’s Meeting, the weather report – knock wood – seems OK for today’s training. Snow was expected Tuesday night, but with a clearing period late morning.

The forecast for Friday’s downhill also appears to be drying out, but Saturday’s picture for super-G is not as promising. As always with the weather, stay tuned.

Today

Downhill training, 11 a.m.

Thursday

Downhill training, 11 a.m.

Friday

Downhill, 11 a.m.

Saturday

Super-G, 11 a.m.

Sunday

Giant slalom

First run, 9:45 a.m.

Second run, 12:45 p.m.

For nonstop Birds of Prey Cover, check out vaildaily.com


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