Bring on today’s giant slalom |

Bring on today’s giant slalom

BEAVER CREEK – First, how do you top Friday’s downhill? The athletes managed a way last year with the giant slalom. Even with the Americans’ run at Birds of Prey, they can’t go 1-2 again in GS, right?Whatever happens, GS is a wild ride. With its combination of speed and technique, the discipline attracts racers of all stripes, and it’s usually wide open. The first run is at 11 a.m., followed by the top 30 and change going at 2 p.m.The lowdown, and as always, now wagering:- Weather: OK, we, or more accurately, blew the forecast for Friday’s downhill. The Web site said the snow would come in during the afternoon. We’re sports writers, not Willard Scott. What do you want from us. For whatever it’s worth, says a high of 14 degrees with snow showers. First that means it’s going to be very frosty on course. Second, the GS should go off because it starts lower on the mountain.- Birds of Prey defending champion: Bode Miller is the defending champ after his dance with gravity last year.- Past Birds of Prey champs: Norway’s Lasse Kjus (2004) and Austria’s Hermann Maier (1999). Kjus also won the 1999 worlds GS when it was contested in Vail.- GS stats: The course starts at 10, 348 feet dropping 1,407 feet to an elevation of 8,944. The course is 4,805 feet long. The homologation number is 4945/128/7. He just like saying homologation.- Number of racers: 65.- Downhill intervals: Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss.- Look out on the GS: Be careful of any sliding course worker. (Kidding.) The Pumphouse greets the racers right out of the gate. Watch out for the area after Red Tail Jump. That was giving the racers, the Austrians in particular, some problems Thursday during the slalom of the super combined.- Americans (bib number): Ted Ligety (9), Miller (12), Erik Schlopy (15), Jimmy Cochran (29), Jake Zamansky (42), Tom Rothrock (53), Warner Nickerson (54), Kevin Francis (65).- Meat of the order: The meat moves from the 20s in speed events to the top of the list in the technical events. So, from Nos. 1 (Italy’s David Simoncelli) to 12 (Miller), anyone here’s in the hunt. If you’re looking for a more specific run, try Nos. 6-12 – Kalle Palander (Finland), Benjamin Raich (Austria), Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway), Ligety, Joel Chenal (France), Rainer Schoenfelder (Austria) and Miller.- Favorites: Palander’s a technical ace, and particularly good here. Svindal also seems to like this hill. Miller? He’s got to be in this group, but we do give our standard disclaimer that your mileage may vary. Our bet is that this is an Austrian throw down between Raich and Schoenfelder.- Darkhorses: Watch out for Chenal to sneak up. Schlopy finished fourth here with a broken hand last year. Ligety may also continue with the home snow run. We’re also curious to get our first look this year at Italy’s Mario Matt and Giorgio Rocca. Yes, those two are slalom specialists, but we’re curious people in more ways then one. – Staff picksFreud/Death pick: I am due. Every once in a while a blind squirrel finds a nut. Benni Raich, don’t let me down – or I’ll never pick you again. I promise.Ian Cropp: Young Cropp continues to look sharp. He had Ligety (10th) in the super combined and Steve Nyman (third) in the downhill. Ian, believing in the power of all things Buffalo, N.Y. – Go Sabres – goes with Schlopy.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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