Birds of Prey downhill training starts today
Birds of prey 2015
Downhill training No. 1, noon
Downhill training No. 2, 10:45 a.m.
Downhill, 10:45 a.m.
Super-G, 11 a.m.
Giant slalom, 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
What? Three races?
Really? That’s all you got, World Cup?
Sorry, this is a journalistic reflex after the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships earlier this year.
Happy Birds of Prey 2015, folks. It’s training today, training on Thursday, downhill on Friday, super-G on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday.
Who’s going to make the moment?
There are very few things in covering sports of which one can be certain. Here is a certainty. Something amazing will happen this weekend.
Birds of Prey, and World Cup ski racing, just produce these moments.
This is the 10th anniversary of Daron Rahlves calling his shot. In 2004, Bode Miller and Rahlves went 1-2 in the Birds of Prey downhill, and Daron proclaimed that the order would be reversed.
His oracle was correct, and for good measure, in 2005, the next day, Bode seemed to fall down over and over on his way to a giant-slalom win.
Speaking of Bode, in 2006, he had a ridiculous lead, going into the slalom portion of the super-combined, and biffed in his Bode-like way. That gave the win to some guy named Aksel Lund Svindal. That was only Svindal’s third career win at the time. He’s sitting on 27 now.
Svindal ends up having one of the more spectacular crashes we’ve ever seen on Golden Eagle in 2007 in training, washing out his 2007-08 season. But he comes back to the scene of the crime the next year and wins both downhill and super-G.
This is where Hermann Maier dominated, winning seven straight starts here, including three in one weekend. We’d never see that again. Except Swtizerland’s Carlo Janka did just that in 2009 — super-combi, downhill and GS.
This is where Andrew Weibreicht flew through gates to 10th place with the No. 53 bib in the 2007 downhill.
This is where big names have established themselves — Austria’s Hannes Reichelt got his first win at Beaver Creek in 2005 and a kid named Ted Ligety got only the second podium of his career in 2006. Both have a bit of history here.
This is also where someone comes from nowhere. Bjarne Solbakken and Sandro Viletta have won here, their only career wins.
Something crazy will happen this weekend. Count on it.
When we all met here last December, Norway’s Svindal was out (Achilles tendon) and another guy from that country was making waves. Kjetil Jansrud swept the Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill and super-G, and promptly won the Birds of Prey downhill.
This might be worth noting since Svindal enters this year’s races coming off a Lake Louise sweep.
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz was second, followed by Steve Nyman in 2014. Feuz and Nyman were both sensational comeback stories.
Reichelt won the super-G. That was a portent. He came back here in February and won the Worlds super-G. Not bad for a guy who “couldn’t win the big one,” according to the Austrian media, which can find fault in a perfect diamond. Jansrud was second and ended up challenging Austria’s Marcel Hirscher for the overall. France’s Alexis Pinturault continued his emergence in third.
In GS, well, Ted won, followed by Pinturault and Hirscher. Ligety has six GS wins here, including Worlds.
It’s worth noting that Hirscher declared that he had no chance of catching either Jansrud or Ligety for his fourth overall World Cup title. And then Hirscher ran everyone down for his fourth globe.
The first session of training is at noon today. Since reporters have two days to kill, we can analyze the ever-loving tar out these runs.
Yes, most of it is paralysis by over-analysis. But you can see some trends. Jansrud came into Beaver Creek hot off his Canada sweep and kept skiing well through training here and ended up winning the downhill and was second in the super-G. (Watch Svindal.)
On the other hand, France’s Adrien Theaux won Day 2 last year. (Yeah, I had to look that up.) Theaux was not a factor at the 2014 Birds of Prey.
France’s Johan Clarey starts us off today. Travis Ganong (bib No. 13) is the first American out of the gate. The heart of the order (16-22) starts with Jansrud and includes Americans Steve Nyman (18) and Marco Sullivan (22). Ligety and Hirscher, who should be the focus of Sunday’s GS, are nos. 31 and 32, respectively.
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.