Race-day primer: The downhill | VailDaily.com

Race-day primer: The downhill

BOP Cuche KA 12-04-09

BEAVER CREEK – It’s time for The Big Show.

OK, the super combined is great fun, and Sunday, the giant slalom will be The Biggest Race in the History of Everything. But this is the downhill.

We’ve got the best in the world going down a sheet of ice at 70 mph, hurtling off jumps that would kill most mere mortals.

This is the big kahuna, kids. Sit back and enjoy.

The format: This is simple – fastest down the hill wins. One run only.

Weather: There’s a forecast high of 27 degrees in the valley, which means high-teens at Red Tail. That’s downright balmy.

Birds of Prey past champions: Kristian Ghedina (1997); Andreas Schifferer (1997); Hermann Maier (1999 Worlds, 1999, 2000 and 2003 World Cup); Stephan Eberharter (2002); Bode Miller (2004, 2006); Daron Rahlves (2003 – transplanted run from Val d’Isere, France – and 2005), Michael Walchhofer (2007) and Aksel Lund-Svindal (2008)

Downhill stats: The course drops from 11,427 feet at the top to 8,944 feet at Red Tail Camp. It’s a descent of 2,484 feet. The course is 8,606 feet long.

No. of racers: 61.

Intervals: Flyway, The Brink, Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss.

Lookout for: Life and limb? OK, The Talon is a nasty turn and Harrier has been adding seconds all week. That jump sends you to the skier’s left when you really need to be going right. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?). The Vail Daily’s experience is that The Flyway is key. Glide well here or you might not get that time back on the rest of the course.

Americans (bib number): Miller (8), Erik Fisher (23), Marco Sullivan (27), Steven Nyman (28), Scott Macartney (33), Andrew Weibrecht (47) and Jeremy Transue (48).

Favorites: Lindsey Vonn. Oops, wrong downhill.

It is hard to go against Walchhofer (17) or Didier Cuche (21) at this point. Walchhofer has torched training. Cuche is skiing like a man possessed. Yet Miller is perfectly capable of bouncing back from a rough super combined as he did in 2006, his last downhill win. Nyman will win on this track someday. We don’t know if it’s today – and yes, we root for Americans. Do not overlook Austria’s Christoph Gruber (29). And we do give a little love to Svindal (16), who is the defending champ.

Darkhorses: Well, there’s Klaus Kroell (18) of Austria, even though it’s hard to think of him as a darkhorse. Do not forget the Canadians – Erik Guay (15) and Manuel Osborn-Paradis (19) who always ski well here. We got all of you green hats as well with Sullivan. He seems just on the brink. And you can’t overlook Weibrecht who’s skiing from the positively-posh No. 47 bib.

Staff picks (no wagering please):

Chris Freud: Walchhofer.

Ed Stoner: Nyman.

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

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