Giant slalom finishes off two captivating weeks of racing
BEAVER CREEK — There is more than one person in this race.
But it’s American snow and Ted Ligety is the favorite for today’s giant slalom at 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
Ligety has won three of his past four starts here. He has four GS globes in the last six years. He’s won the GS at Worlds in 2013 and 2011. He has 18 career wins, all in GS. Thirty one of his 38 podiums are in GS.
Ligety has stated for many years that he wants the overall, and Saturday’s fifth-place finish in the super-G was a big step toward that goal. We wish him well in that quest. The slalom is the discipline which he has to improve to get the overall globe.
But it’s GS today, and American fans during the last two weeks have seen a few good performances, most particularly Mikaela Shiffrin’s second place in last Sunday’s women’s GS. American fans have sort of gotten spoiled by the success the red, white and blue has had at Birds of Prey from Daron Rahlves to Bode Miller to, well, Ligety.
One could hear the roar start as both Bode Miller and Ligety put up green numbers early in the super-G runs. The local fans are waiting to erupt. They want to hear the anthem not just before the race, but after. They want an American to win.
They want Ted.
By the way, he’s wearing No. 6 today.
Here’s the lowdown on the GS:
• Format: It’s two runs. Best-combined time wins. The top-30 finishers from the first run at 9:45 a.m. advance to the second at 12:45 p.m. In the second run, the order of racers is flipped, meaning that the fastest racer in the first goes last in the second. The phrase, “making the flip” will be used early and often. A reminder that making the flip does not guarantee World Cup points. A racer, even though there are only 30 going in the second run, must finish that run to be in the points.
• No. of racers: 70.
• Weather: You thought we were kidding when we talked about how balmy it was last week. Who’s laughing now? We’re looking at a toasty high of 10 with 1-3 inches of snow.
• Birds of Prey past champions: Hermann Maier (1999), Lasse Kjus (2004 and 1999 Worlds in Vail), Bode Miller (2005), Massilmiliano Blardone (2006), Daniel Albrecht (2007), Benni Raich (2008), Carlo Janka (2009), Ted Ligety (2010, 2011 and 12) and Marcel Hirscher (2011).
• GS stats: Racers drop 1,407 feet from a starting elevation of 10,351. The course is nearly a mile long at 4,806 feet.
• Look out for: The Abyss. Just before Harrier Jump, this compression will sap precious tenths of seconds.
• A note on the start order: In downhill and super-G, the favorites have bib Nos. 16-23. In GS, the favorites, based on World Cup points, go in single digits.
• Americans (bib No.): That Ligety guy (6); Tim Jitloff (27); Miller (31); Brennan Rubie (32); Warner Nickerson (37) and Robby Kelley (45).
• Favorites: Um, Ligety. OK, seriously, Austria’s Hirscher (3), the defending overall champion, was No. 2 in the points last year in the GS. Italy’s Alexis Pinturault (5) is always a threat. Italy’s Manfred Moelgg (1), and France’s Thomas Fanara (4) are tech specialists. And betting against Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal (7) should be illegal.
• Darkhorses: Austria’s Raich (8) still has some good moments left in him. Blardone (9) also has a win here. Keep an eye on Marcus Sandell (2) from Finland.
• The picks: We’re all going with Ted.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.