Giant-slalom time: All eyes on Ted
BEAVER CREEK – Yeah, we’re meant to be covering the men’s World Cup – today is giant slalom with runs at 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. – but even by Lindsey Vonn’s ridiculous standards in Lake Louise, Alberta, she’s on a rampage.
The last two days shouts and applause have started at a seemingly-random times in the media cabin, and the reaction is “Oh, Lindsey must have won again.”
It’s not just the Lake Louise thing, although with her two downhill wins this weekend, she’s won there a staggering 10 times, and there’s super-G today. It’s how she’s winning – these last two races haven’t been close. Then there’s the fact she started the season by winning in giant slalom in Soelden, Austria. She’s sitting at 322 points in the overall chase already?
And she’s doing this with her divorce having gone public. (We aren’t into the gossip, but we’re just acknowledging that this has to be difficult for her, and she’s still racing in a different world.)
Kind of make you get excited for Wednesday when she comes to town for super-G?
Today’s men’s giant slalom should be pretty interesting, too. All eyes will be on Ted Ligety as he attempts to repeat as the Birds of Prey champion. No pressure, Ted.
Seriously, people, the world will not stop spinning if Ligety doesn’t win today. (The same goes for Vonn in her super-G.) We are in a new world where expectations for American wins are getting a little out of control, an amusing fact for the author who remembers when a young Bode Miller finished eighth in slalom during the 1999 Worlds here and that was a really good result. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Root for Teddy, but just don’t be too bummed if he doesn’t win. After all, he gets another shot in two days when we do this race all over again, as we resume with Birds of Prey 2011, part II.
Format: 63 racers will start in the first run. The top-30 finishers advance to the second run. The top 30 will be flipped so that fastest guy in the first run goes last in the second run. A racer must finish both runs to earn points. Just making the flip doesn’t do it.
Weather: Really darn cold. Weather.com says the high is going to be 17. That makes it near single-digits up a Red Tail. We’re looking a light snowfall, but nothing that should disrupt a GS.
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)
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.
Intervals: Golden Eagle and The Abyss.
Look out for: The winner will have to carry speed from the top. It’s not a long course, especially by comparison to the speed races of the last two days, but athletes are short on oxygen at this altitude (8,900 feet at the finish). That makes the final gates lung-busters.
Americans (bib number): Ligety (2), MIller (16), Tommy Ford (36), Warner Nickerson, (37), Tim Jitloff (39), Will Gregorak (40), Charles Christianson (58).
Favorites: They come right out of the gate in technical events. Ligety won the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, and is the defending globe-holder. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal (6) ranked No. 2 in GS points last year. France’s Cyprien Richard (3) was all of three points behind Svindal. The “other” Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud (7) was second here last year, and was skiing well in training. Switzerland’s Carlo Janka (4) won this race in 2009.
Darkhorses: How about Austria’s Philipp Schoerghofer (5)? Miller? He’s been skiing well this week (How did he stay up in Saturday’s super-G?). Austrians Hannes Reichelt, Benni Raich and Romed Baumann (10-12) all look formidable.
Staff picks (as always, no wagering): First off, we’re sure you all had Switzerland’s Sandro Vitella Saturday in the super-G. Yep. Reporter Lauren Glendenning nearly had the double, having picked Miller in the downhill (winner) and Svindal in the super-G (second). If Svindal had won, Glendenning would have given up journalism to become a stock picker.
Lauren Glendenning: Ligety.
We both probably should take Vonn, no matter what.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.