Birds of Prey picks up another downhill
You win some, you lose some.
On Wednesday, alpine racers lost a day of downhill training on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek, because of a late-arriving equipment truck. The World Cup event picked up another downhill, though, as a result of the cancellation of next weekend’s World Cup downhill in Val d’Isere, France.
The make-up Val d’Isere race is scheduled for Friday starting at 12:15 p.m., while both Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s super-G will are still slated for 11 a.m. starts.
“The cancellation of Val D’Isere is, in general, a good thing for us, just because Beaver Creek is a course that the guys really like,” said Phil McNichol, head coach of the U.S. men’s team. “The guys are actually quite enthusiastic and excited to be able to have two (downhill) races at home on this course. It’s more challenging and suits more of our guys’ style in terms of how demanding the downhill is.”
The cancellation of the Val d’Isere races is a very good thing for Beaver Creek also, being that Vail/Beaver Creek and Val d’Isere are both candidates vying for the World Alpine Ski Championships in 2009.
This Friday’s race will mark the tenth time since 1983, that either Vail or Beaver Creek has played host to a relocated World Cup race, the most recent coming in 1999 after both Park City, Utah’s slalom and giant slalom were moved that year.
“We are pleased to once again be in a position to help out the F.I.S. and the World Cup circuit by picking up this additional race,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “It’s a tribute to Vail Resorts and the entire Birds of Prey organizing committee, not to mention the great early season snow conditions that currently exist in the Vail Valley.”
While racing conditions were perfect for training on Wednesday, with a clear blue sky hanging overhead and minimal to no wind, the already-postponed 1 p.m. training runs didn’t go off because of the late moving truck.
The truck, carrying equipment for a majority of the international teams competing in this weekends competition was supposed to arrive sometime between 7-9 a.m. Wednesday, but a holdup in customs further delayed what had already been an ill-fated odyssey.
The truck had already gotten off to a late start, then had a driver who didn’t want to drive, along with being stopped by authorities for being overweight, before its most recent holdup.
“It’s a soap opera,” said McNichol who estimated that 90 percent of the ski federations had assorted gear in the truck. “It’s definitely newsworthy in terms of an eclectic set of events. With it being the official transportation of equipment through the F.I.S. who organizes and manages the operation of the F.I.S., World Cup, they couldn’t turn around and say “Hey guys,’ meaning “Hey, you federations, you can’t get your stuff here, that’s not our concern. We’re running a World Cup. Tough luck.'”
McNichol was frustrated that ideal conditions for training were wasted as a result of the fiasco, but quipped that since every team was faced with the same circumstances, the setback was equal-opportunity.
“It’s just always extremely unfortunate,” added McNichol. “I’ve not seen it before where we’ve missed a World Cup training run in great weather, with absolutely almost ideal conditions due to a just an absolute folly on management of the event and the transportation of the F.I.S. world cup.
“I’m not talking about Beaver Creek’s management. The [organizing committee] here has done a great job, but the management of the F.I.S. World Cup, the whole circuit. Those guys are obviously extremely disappointed, and there will obviously be some ramifications to the individuals that actually executed that, even though some of that was out of their control.”
At Wednesday’s captains meeting at the Park Hyatt at Beaver Creek, F.I.S. chief race director Gunter Hujara readdressed the situation for the final time and asserted that there would be consequences for those responsible for the mishap, specifically the moving company.
“We will talk to the responsible people, especially the company that was contracted, and we will find out what really happened,” said Hujara. “To track this truck, and not know where it is, and how long it took, that’s not understandable from my side. To lose a training run under these conditions, and not being able to run, that’s something that should not happen.”
With only one training run to prepare at 11 a.m. today, before the start of actual competition, odds suggest that World Cup veterans, who have run the Birds of Prey in the past, will have an advantage over those with less course experience.
Equipment adjustments will also be crucial, suggests McNichol, because with only a limited testing period, the teams with the best technical resources may be able to gain an edge.
“Because we are only going to have one training run and two (downhill) races, that is going to make it difficult with equipment selection and figuring out the line on a challenging hill,” said McNichol. “It will also favor the teams that have the greatest resources and support from the factories. Team Austria operates as close to a factory team as you can with Atomic, and they obviously have a lot of recourses. So in terms of actually having the right skis ready to go with only one opportunity to see what skis are actually working, that may tend to lean in their favor.
“It’s a challenge, but then again, everyone is faced with it. So in terms of parity, it’s fine.”
Nate Peterson is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.