Here comes the snow and the giant slalom | VailDaily.com
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Here comes the snow and the giant slalom

BEAVER CREEK – Technically, the traditional combined or the super combi are the races which determine the best all-around skier, combining speed with technical ability.

We say, though, that the giant slalom does that, too, which is sort of relevant as we bring down the curtain on the 2009 Birds of Prey races with a GS. Please note that we are starting at 9:45 a.m. today with the flip at 12:45 p.m.

GS is still fast, but still has some of the fun attrition rate of a super-combined slalom or regular slalom. That’s a way of saying anyone can win this thing.

Bode Miller likely has the most memorable GS performance at Beaver Creek in 2005. It was really snowy – which should ring a bell – and Bode was just Bode that day – all over the place, nearly on his rear end several times and winning, nonetheless.

Looking at today’s race, the crowd will be pulling for Ted Ligety. Austrian Benni Raich edged Ligety by 1-hundredth of a second over two runs last year to win. Aksel Lund-Svindal won bronze.

And while that’s all well and good, does anyone want to bet against Switzerland’s Carlo Janka at this point?

The skinny on the race:

Format: Sixty-four 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: This gets interesting, kids. Weather.com forecast 2-4 inches of snow for Saturday night and 2-4 more for today with a high of 15. A downhill would probably be out of the question, but we’re betting with the Beaver Creek crew’s prowess, not to mention that GS is run on a shorter course, that this will be a go.

Birds of Prey past champions: Hermann Maier (1999), Lasse Kjus (2004 and 1999 Worlds in Vail), Miller (2005), Massilmiliano Blardone (2006), Daniel Albrecht (2007) and Raich (2008).

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: From Friday’s super-combined slalom, racers were having serious problems with gates around Red Tail. The Pumphouse out of the gate is no treat either. Visibility could well be in issue, too.

Americans (bib number): Ligety (6), Tim Jitloff (27), Miller (31), Jake Zamamsky (40), Tommy Ford (53) and Andrew Weibrecht (58) – In non-Ligety-GS-American commentary, it’ll be fun to see what Ford can do here. He’s all of 20, it’s only his second World Cup start and Ligety says he’s fast.

Favorites: We completely overlooked Janka in this space before Saturday’s downhill. Sorry, man Janka (5) is attempting to join Maier as the only person to win three-consecutive events here. By the way, Janka won the GS at Worlds last winter. Daron Rahlves says it’s Ligety, and Big D knows what’s going on. Anybody else in the top seven here – and they should have a serious advantage in start position with the weather – also is in the running. That would be Svindal (1), Blardone (2), Raich (3), Jean-Baptiste Grange (4) and Didier Cuche (7).

Darkhorses: Miller falls into this category as he has not had much on-snow training and this is a technical event. Didier Defago (16) can’t be overlooked the way he and the Swiss have been going this week. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud (8), Italy’s Davide Simoncelli (13) and Austria’s Romed Baumann (14) all skied well at Soelden, Austria, in the season’s first GS.

Staff picks (really no wagering, please, especially if you actually want to win money):

Chris Freud: Raich.

Ed Stoner (and Rahlves): Ligety.

Sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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