Race primer: The super-combined | VailDaily.com

Race primer: The super-combined

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Yes, technically the circus has been in town for a few does, but finally, here we go.

After Wednesday’s training was canceled because of wind and poor visibility ” shockingly, we lost a day of training for the fourth-straight year ” it’s race day.

The super combined is the best addition to Birds of Prey since, well, snow. For the uninitiated, it’s one run of downhill at 11 a.m., followed by a slalom at 2:30 p.m., with the best combined time winning.

Theoretically, a super combined determines the best overall skier on that day. More often than not though, it produces utter chaos ” read great theater.

Mathematically, a downhiller should have an advantage as the speed run will constitute two-thirds of the total time, since there’s only one run of slalom, a considerably shorter distance.

But experience tells us that slalomers have the edge at Birds of Prey.

Despite Bode Miller’s mind-numbing mistake here in 2006, missing a gate and blowing a two-second lead as the last racer of the day, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal had a superb run in the gates to win that year. In 2007, Switzerland’s Daniel Albrecht was under the radar after the downhill and posted the third-fastest slalom time of the day to capture gold.

Yet for all of the debate between whether downhill skills or slalom ability is the key, we leave it to a quote I got in 2006 from Italian coach Claudio Ravetto who said, “The strategy is winning the downhill and wining the slalom.”

Well put.

The lowdown on today’s races:

Weather: This gives us another interesting variable for the super combi. Weather.com is calling for 2-4 inches of snow, primarily in the morning, with a high of 22, which means mid-teens up at Red Tail. The downhill start of the super-combi is naturally lower on the hill, which gives us a better chance for racing.

Birds of Prey defending champion: Albrecht (Bib No. 15).

Past champion: The super combi arrived at Beaver Creek in 2006, so its only other conqueror is Svindal (Bib No. 20).

Downhill stats: The first run drops from 11,158 feet at the top to 8,944 feet at the finish stadium, a drop of 2,215 feet. The course is 7,002 feet long.

Slalom stats: The gate bashing begins at 9,629 feet, going down 685 feet down to Red Tail.

Downhill intervals: The Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss.

Slalom interval: The Abyss.

Lookout on the downhill: Racers get The Talon right out of the gates, which will raise the heartbeat. The Pumphouse always gets someone, but a good portion of the field was having problems staying in on the last three jumps, Golden Eagle, Harrier and Red Tail.

Look out on the slalom: They call it The Abyss for a reason, but from experience, keeping your speed through the finish is key.

Americans (bib number): Miller (17), Ted Ligety (21), T.J. Lanning (26), Andrew Weibrecht (38), Maxamillian Hammer (50) and Marco Sullivan (56).

Favorites: The term really doesn’t apply to this format but Miller, Svindal and Austria’s Benni Raich probably top the list.

Dark horses: Ligety won gold in the traditional combined at the 2006 Olympics, but he can he stay close enough in the downhill this early in the season? The same goes for Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic. Albrecht should be a factor. Slovakia’s Andrej Sporn was a big bib mover in Tuesday’s training, going from No. 53 to 24th, and has the slalom skills to boot.

Staff picks:

Freud: I have to be right once ” Miller.

Smith: The Iowan goes with Svindal.

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

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