Reichelt is ready to high-five the tough Birds of Prey super-G course
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — The Birds of Prey super-G is famous for surprises.
In general, most ski racers will tell you that super-G is the most difficult discipline in which to be consistently successful. However, in anticipation of the 2018 Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup super-G on Saturday, Dec. 1, one competitor has better odds than others to do well … according to history, anyway. It happens to be the oldest guy racing.
Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, 38, is the most winning super-G racer in Beaver Creek history. He rolled into his first Beaver Creek super-G back in 2005 and fired to victory. It was his first on the World Cup. He followed up with another win in 2007 — the discipline wasn’t contested here in 2006 — and landed the World Cup super-G title that season. After placing 13th and 10th in ensuing years, it wasn’t until 2012 that Reichelt was back on the Birds of Prey super-G podium, finishing third for two straight years and flying back to the top of the podium in 2014.
In 2015, he truly put his stamp on his Birds of Prey dominance, landing the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships super-G gold, making it four wins at this venue.
“For every racer there (are) some races they like more than other races. For me, it’s Beaver Creek,” Reichelt said. “I don’t really know why it’s always going good for me here in Beaver Creek super-G.”
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‘A tough super-G’
It’s not because it’s easy. The Birds of Prey super-G begins at a start elevation of 10,945 feet and plunges racers immediately down one of the steepest pitches on the World Cup, a section appropriately named The Brink. From here, the course continues with swinging turns, rollers and a handful of huge jumps, all made exponentially more challenging by the nature of super-G, in which racers learn about gate placement only in the morning inspection before the race.
“It’s really a tough super-G,” Reichelt said. “There are so many parts of the course where you have to ski with brain to keep the speed. I think in our tour it’s the most difficult super-G. But when it’s more difficult, I like it.”
Following his back-to-back Beaver Creek wins, Reichelt notched a 16th place in December 2015, his career worst super-G finish at Beaver Creek. While this was a disappointment, it serves to remind him to maintain his focus every time he rolls into town.
“The feeling is great, every time I come here, but I always say to (myself), stay focused, because it’s really a tough slope here. The inspection is important in super-G, of course. The terrain and some gates are always set similar to the years before. It happened that I didn’t do some gates so good, especially in December 2015. I was in one part too straight and I was losing a lot of time. I was less focused than the years before. That’s the reason I say, ‘Stay focused. Don’t think about what happened in the past.’”
After no Birds of Prey racing in 2016, Reichelt was back on the podium in last year’s super-G and is looking forward to more bonding with his favorite course in Saturday’s race.
“Really, I don’t know what is different here. I like the course because it is difficult, but maybe there is something else. Maybe there is also a friendship here between the slope and me.”