Race day: The downhill primer | VailDaily.com

Race day: The downhill primer

Chris FreudVail, CO Colorado

BEAVER CREEK – We missed this last year.It couldn’t be helped – alpine skiing happens to be an outdoor sport – and wind blew away last year’s downhill. So as Johnny Carson would say, “We are back.”Happy Birds of Prey Downhill Day.There is an intriguing group hitting the slopes today at 11 a.m. If there is a favorite – which is really a dumb concept in ski racing – it’s got to be Switzerland’s Didier Cuche.The old man, 37 – we kid because we care, Didier – won the first downhill of the season last week up in Canada and was second in the super-G. He’s skied well here in training and is a regular on the podium at Birds of Prey. And he just happens to be the defending World Cup downhill champ.American Bode Miller is always in the hunt here. He has two downhill wins on his resume at Beaver Creek and, like Cuche, looks like he’s running well. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt has finished third and first the last two days in practice. How about teammate Klaus Kroell? He was third in the downhill points last year behind only Cuche and the now-retired Michael Walchhofer.And don’t forget Switzerland’s Carlo Janka. With no downhill last year, he is the defending champ here.The low-down on the downhill:The format: This is simple – fastest down the hill wins. One run only.Weather: The forecast high is 31 degrees so count on mid-20s at Red Tail. Scattered snow showers are in the forecast, but we should be a go.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), Aksel Lund Svindal (2008) and Carlo Janka (2009)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: 67Intervals: Flyway, The Brink, Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss.Lookout for: The Flyway and the Brink. Strong gliders can pick up speed up top. The Pumphouse has been a concern this week as has The Abyss. Smart money says that the guy who can pick up speed on the bottom, bucking the usual trend, wins.Americans (bib number): Miller (12), Ted Ligety (32), Erik Fisher (34), Andrew Weibrecht (36), Marco Sullivan (37), Travis Ganong (38), Wiley Maple (46), Thomas Biesemeyer (55) and Tommy Ford (67)Favorites: Cuche (21), Miller (12), Reichelt (28), Kroell (18) and Janka (14).Darkhorses: Svindal’s (8) always in the hunt here. Watch out for Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen (16) and Beat Fuez (19) and Italy’s Christof Innerhofer (17).Staff picks (no wagering please):Chris Freud: Svindal.Lauren Glendenning: Miller.Sports Editor Chris Freud, who is usually completely off in his picks, can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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