Downhill day at Beaver Creek: The race primer
BEAVER CREEK – That was a lot of training.
Sorry, folks, but we’re used to only two days of training in the build-up to Birds of Prey, and, usually, one of those days gets snowed out.
As it turns out, good call by FIS, Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley Foundation (and whoever else was involved) to add Tuesday’s training. Everybody got two full runs, and some got a third on a snowy Wednesday.
It’s finally race day, and there are so many story lines here. Could Carlo Janka win again after the hat trick last year? The Americans on home snow? Bode Miller is capable of anything, and the red, white and blue is deep. It may not be Miller from the U.S.A.
Austria? Hans Grugger and Michael Walchhofer have skied well in training. Or is it Mario Scheiber’s time at last? While still in the Alps, forget not Didier Cuche.
Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal is a solid choice. Good training this week and he always skis well here. Or is like someone we hadn’t really known, like a Janka last year?
One thing’s for sure, this won’t be dull.
The low-down on the downhill:
The format: This is simple – fastest down the hill wins. One run only.
Weather: There’s a forecast high of 40 in Avon, so make it low 30s at Red Tail. Weather.com says a 50 percent chance of snow, which could be the forecast from now until May. (Sorry, too easy.) There will be some flakes, but that’s as it should be.
Birds of Prey past champions: Kristian Ghedina (1997); Andreas Schifferer (1997); Hermann Maier (1999 Worlds, 1999, 2000 and 2003 World Cup); Stephan Eberharter (2002); Bode Miller (2004, 2006); Daron Rahlves (2003 – transplanted run from Val d’Isere, France – and 2005), Michael Walchhofer (2007), Aksel Lund-Svindal (2008) and Carlo Janka (2009)
Downhill stats: The course drops from 11,427 feet at the top to 8,944 feet at Red Tail Camp. It’s a descent of 2,484 feet. The course is 8,606 feet long.
No. of racers: 67.
Intervals: Flyway, The Brink, Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss.
Lookout for: The Flyway and the Brink. Strong gliders can pick up speed up top. The combination of the Abyss and Harrier Jump has also thrown racers about going into the final jump, Red Tail. The correct line through here will reduce precious 10ths.
Americans (bib number): Miller (13), Andrew Weibrecht (23), Marco Sullivan (29), Ted Ligety (33), Travis Ganong (37), Steve Nyman (38), Erik Fisher (52) and Tommy Ford (66).
Favorites: Insert the usual names here – Grugger (3), Miller (13), Svindal (16), Cuche (17), Janka (19), Walchhofer (20) and Canada’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis (21). This is a who’s-who of the big boys.
Darkhorses: France’s Adrien Theaux (2) has put together a good week of training, as have Canada’s Erik Guay (10) and Austria’s Klaus Kroell (8). Does Sullivan (29) feel good enough with his gear? Is Travis Ganong (37) just young enough not to know better and pop a big run today? Weibrecht (23) broke out here as did Nyman (38).
Staff picks (no wagering please):
Chris Freud: Stranger things have happened at Birds of Prey. Janka wins his fourth in a row here. Lindsey Vonn wins up in Lake Louise, by the way.
Lauren Glendenning: Planet Provo completes his medal set at Beaver Creek as Nyman wins.
Sports Editor Chris Freud, who is usually completely off in his picks, can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
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