Jitloff a bright spot for Americans in Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Jitloff a bright spot for Americans in Beaver Creek


BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Sundays traditionally at the Birds of Prey are get-away days for World Cup racers. It’s the end of the North American swing and off it’s off to Val d’Isere, France.

For the Americans, it’s really get-away day. The red, white and blue bids adieu to home for nearly four months.

So while Ted Ligety’s second-place finish, a mere hundredth of a second behind Austria’s Benni Raich, was the center of attention, the rest of the crew was trying to put on one last good show for the home folks before hitting the road.

“We usually try to come here and have a really strong results and enjoy the homefield advantage that we won’t get the rest of the season ” enjoy food, enjoy our friends and our family here and everything like that,” said Erik Schlopy, while holding his 2-year-old daughter, Skye. “That’s all we’re trying to do, have a good result and get good training and enjoy our last hurrahs with friends and family before we head to Europe.”

Bode skis out

For a brief while, it looked like it was going to be a banner day for the Americans. Ligety led after the first run (1 minute, 11.31 seconds) and Node Miller was fifth, 0.89 second back.

Needing to hammer his run, Miller started his second run in his usual style and led at the Golden Eagle interval by 27-hundredths of a second, but started to lose control just after the checkpoint. While trying to right himself, Miller’s left ski came up and he went out of bounds for a DNF.

As is customary, Miller didn’t bother with the press corral, but there were plenty of others willing to talk about him.

“He wasn’t real clean on the ski at the turn, and there was a little bit of a chatter there,” American men’s alpine coach Sasha Rearick said. “If you weren’t pushing on the ski, it bounced a little bit. That’s what happened on the first run. On the second run, I saw him go into a hole on the back. That’s all I really saw.”

Miller leaves Beaver Creek in 13th place in the overall chase with 142 points, but the current leader ” Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal (345) ” isn’t counting him out.

“He does on skis (what) no on else in the world does. Whenever he can pull it out, the rest of us almost have to perform better than we can do to keep up with him,” Svindal said. “If I was going to bet money on someone on the world right now, he’s getting better and better, maybe he’s worth putting money on. To me, he’s maybe the best skier in the world.”

Jitloff makes the flip

Tim Jitloff has been bouncing between the Europa Cup/Nor-Ams and the World cup the last two years. But the Park City, Utah, native, who turns 23 in January, is starting to make it tough on the U.S. Ski Team staff when it comes to deciding who’s skiing where, and that’s a good thing.

Jitloff finished 22nd (1:13.22) in the first run, safely inside the cut of 30 racers who advance to the second heat for the second-straight GS of the season. (He was 20th in Soelden, Austria.) Since the racers go in reverse order of their first-run time ” Ligety was the fastest in the morning, so he ran last Sunday afternoon ” Jitloff was more than happy to make the flip.

Jitloff’s second run was a bit of an adventure, but most importantly for a young skier trying to build his resume, he got down and in the points. Jitloff’s troubles started in the third gate.

“My heart stopped, but I made a great save to keep it going,” Jitloff joked. “I just tried to calm down and keep it going and be relaxed because, after you make a mistake, most times you try to be too aggressive. If you’ve made that mistake, you end up making it worse. I just tried to calm down.”

Jitloff looked like he was done on Golden Eagle, but made another great save to pick up precious World Cup points.

“Yeah, I want to get down fast, but you’ve got to get down and get those points,” Jitloff said.

T.J. and company

Both Schlopy and Aspen’s Jake Zamansky were hoping to crack the top 30 in the morning but did not qualify.

Schlopy, who finished fourth here in the 2005 GS, saw his hopes of a second run go up when his hip brushed the snow just after Goshawk, losing speed going into the flats of the run.

The Buffalo, N.Y., native, who’s seen more than his share of adversity in his lengthy career, still expects to have a good season.

“I want to have a really strong season, and if I do, I’ll go through to the Olympics (in 2010),” he said. “I’m healthy now. There’s no reason why I can’t have some of the best races I’ve ever had.”

Aspen’s Jake Zamansky had tough encounter with the Abyss, which essentially ended his day.

“This has always been a good hill for me,” Zamansky said. “We’ve raced Nor-Ams here. I’ve been racing World Cups for a few years. All along, this race was my goal from April. I really wanted to punch myself in there. I know I’m skiing well. I’ve been training well. I know I had good splits today, so I’m looking forward to going over to Europe and just continuing with that momentum.”

Jimmy Cochran and T.J. Lanning both were DNFs in the first run. But for Lanning, it was really a good weekend of racing at Beaver Creek.

He was 13th in the downhill, after running 35th on Friday. On Saturday, he vaulted to 26th, while wearing the No. 52 bib.

“(It’s) more confidence and better start positions for the next race,” he said. “Just keep poking my nose in there, top 10s until I’m in the top 30 starting.”

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

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