It was a super-G day on Birds of Prey course | VailDaily.com

It was a super-G day on Birds of Prey course

BEAVER CREEK — So who’s winning today’s super-G?

Darn good question.

This is the race at Birds of Prey that is simply hard to figure.

Birds of Prey’s super-G has had three first-time World Cup winners during the last three years and six in the last 11 years.

What’s so funny is that some of these first-time winners have launched their careers with this race and others have never been heard from again.

Austria’s Hannes Reichelt logged win No. 1 here in super-G on Dec. 1, 2005 — his first two triumphs were actually here as he won again in 2007 — and has had a tremendous career. He has seven World Cup wins, a silver at the 2011 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

Bjarne Solbakken of Norway won in 2003, and that was it for him. For Stefan Goergl, of Austria, his 2004 super-G title here was one of only two.

It’s hard to make a judgment on the careers of guys such as Sandro Viletta (2011 winner), Matteo Marsaglia (2012) and Patrick Kueng (2013), though Kueng returned to the win column in downhill in Wengen, Switzerland, not a bad title to add to one’s resume.

The 2008 winner here, Aksel Lund Svindal, said that one of the reasons he could explain the newbies winning was that to nail it perfectly in super-G at Beaver Creek, a racer has to have all-or-nothing approach. Guys like Svindal are fast but take a little off, he said, to stay upright and in the points.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a win yet, he added, you do go for broke.

Given the unpredictability of the super-G and the excitement of Friday’s downhill, well, regardless of who wins, it should be a show.

The facts and figures you need for today’s super-G:

• Format: One run with some gates. Racers may inspect, but not train, on the course as it is set. Fastest time wins.

• Stats: The super-G course starts at 10,945 feet and drops 1,991 feet over the course of 1.16 miles.

• Past Birds of Prey super-G champs: Hermann Maier, Austria, (1997, 1998); Maier and Lasse Kjus, Norway, (tie, 1999 Worlds); Fredrik Nyberg, Sweden, (2000), Didier Cuche, Switzerland (2002), Bjarne Solbakken, Norway, (2003), Stefan Goergl, Austria (2004), Hannes Reichelt, Austria, (2005, 2007), Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, (2008), Georg Streitberger, Austria, (2010), Sandro Viletta, Switzerland, (2011), Matteo Marsaglia, Italy (2012) and Patrick Kueng, Switzerland (2013).

• Weather: High of 40 degrees in Avon, which translates to 32-35 degrees at Red Tail. Weather.com says there’s a 20 percent chance of precipitation. This is very balmy forecast for this time of year.

• Key spots: Well, the super-G course starts with the Talon Turn right out of the gate, which should be fun. Speaking of which, Switzerland’s Kueng really looked like he was going to have a major yard sale on that turn during the downhill, but miraculously recovered. That was one of the better DNFs we have ever seen. It’s amazing he’s still in one piece. Back to the course, Golden Eagle Jump was throwing a lot of people around on Friday.

• Americans (bib Nos.): Andrew Weibrecht (15), Ted Ligety (27), Travis Ganong (29), Thomas Biesemeyer (38), Steve Nyman (41), Tim Jitloff (42) and Bryce Bennett (53).

• Favorites: Well, does anyone want to bet against Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud (21)? The guy’s definitely en fuego. Reichelt (14) loves this course and has won here before. Austria’s Otmer Striedinger (16), Canada’s Jan Hudec (18), Austria’s Matthias Mayer (19) and Switzerland’s Didier Defago (20) are all the usual suspects.

Darkhorses: Weibrecht, after starting with wretched starting positions in training and downhill has a good super-G spot (15). Kueng (17) is the defending champ. Travis Ganong (29) has the American fans buzzing.

The picks

• Chris Freud, sports editor, Vail Daily: The newbie tradition continues with Ganong.

• Melanie Wong, assistant managing editor, Vail Daily: Looking for some 2013 Worlds magic with Ligety.

• Pat Graham, Associated Press: Going with The War Horse, Weibrecht.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.