It’s downhill race day at the Birds of Prey | VailDaily.com

It’s downhill race day at the Birds of Prey

BEAVER CREEK — Happy downhill day.

Time to see who’s the fastest man on skis. The winner gets 100 points in the World Cup standings. He also gets tabbed as the favorite for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February.

While the Birds of Prey downhill doesn’t have the history of Kitzbuehel, Austria, or Wengen, Switzerland, it has a knack for producing champions. When one looks at the list of winners, there isn’t a “who?” The greats of this generation win here.

Who joins the list today?

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2014 Birds of Prey downhill:

• Format: One run, fastest down the hill in one piece wins.

• Stats: The race starts at 11,424 feet and drops 2,470 feet in roughly 1 minute, 40 seconds. The course is 1.62 miles long. The average pitch is 17 degrees. It gets as steep as 32.3 degrees on The Talon Turn. (This is why we leave this to the pros.)

• Past champions: Kristian Ghedina, Italy, 1997; Andreas Schifferer, Austria, 1997; Hermann Maier, Austria, 1999 Worlds, 1999 World Cup stop, 2000 and 2003; Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 2002; Daron Rahlves, U.S.A., 2003 and 2005; Bode Miller, U.S.A., 2004, 2006 and 2011; Michael Walcholfer, Austria, 2008; Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 2008 and 2013; Carlo Janka, Switzerland, 2009; Christof Innerhoffer, Italy, 2012.

• Winners’ trivia: No racer has had his first World Cup win come at Birds of Prey in downhill. Birds of Prey downhill winners have a combined 98 DH wins on the World Cup. Janka is the Birds of Prey winner with the fewest downhill wins in his career (three), but he’s only 28 and his downhill win here in 2009 was part of a triple-gold sweep that year on his way to the 2010 overall World Cup title. Eberharter, not Maier, is the most prolific downhiller to conquer Birds of Prey with 18 career downhill wins in his career.

• Weather: Today’s high is 40 degrees in Avon, translating to about 32-35 degrees at Red Tail. There’s a 10 percent chance of precipitation, so quite nice.

• Key spots: The Talon Turn, which comes right after The Brink has been a major issues for racers in training. The Abyss, a flat between Golden Eagle and Harrier jumps, is always an issue for racers as they try to carry speed to the finish.

• Americans (bib No.): Marco Sullivan (1), Ted Ligety (5), Steven Nyman (6), Travis Ganong (22), Jared Goldberg (41), Bryce Bennett (44), Maple Wiley (54), Thomas Biesemeyer (59) and Andrew Weibrecht (62).

• Favorites: Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud (17) has the hot hand having won in Lake Louise, Alberta, twice last weekend. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt (18) had the most points in downhill among racers who are active this year. He also has a good history at Beaver Creek. Teammate Matthias Meyer (21) seems to be Austria’s latest emerging downhill ace at 24. He won the World Cup Finals downhill last season in Switzerland. Speaking of Switzerland, Patrick Kueng (16) won super-G here last year and is the defending Wengen champ.

• Darkhorses: Italy’s Peter Fill (9) has looked very sharp in training, as has American Nyman. Ganong is also in this category, but he is still looking for his first win, which goes against Birds of Prey history. France’s Adrien Theaux (12) won training on Wednesday.

• Sports Editor’s pick: Reichelt. The Vail Daily’s Melanie Wong goes with Jansrud.

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