Svindal glides on top in capturing downhill
Birds of prey 2015
Super-G, 11 a.m.
Giant slalom, 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
BEAVER CREEK — It’s really like he never left.
Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal threw down a commanding run to win for the fifth time on the Birds of Prey racecourse with a time of 1 minute, 42.34 seconds during Friday’s World Cup downhill at Beaver Creek. The only guy who really gave him a scare was teammate Kjetil Jansrud, who was 3-tenths of a second behind and took second.
France’s Guillermo Fayed finished with bronze and a time of 1:43.04.
Fast starts to the speed season of World Cup seem to be a Norwegian thing the past few years. Svindal is now 3-for-3 in downhill and super-G, having swept last weekend’s races up in Lake Louise, Alberta. The last racer to start a season with three straight speed wins was none other than Jansrud, who completed the same triple last winter.
For Svindal, whose last win at Birds of Prey came in 2013, it’s a particularly gratifying streak as he missed all but two races last season after rupturing his Achilles tendon. (He entered the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in downhill and super-G and finished sixth in both races. Not bad on one leg.)
“I think being injured — touch wood — as long as you’re able to recover 100 percent, then I think it’s good for your mind,” Svindal said. “You get some perspective. … You’re kind of living in a bubble when you’re in competition. … It’s all about mindset. If you get injured and everything sucks, you’re in trouble. If you get injured, but you look for this to give (yourself) a new opportunity, then it’s not that bad.”
That’s the 28th World Cup win of Svindal’s career.
Flying away on Flyway
While gaining perspective while away from a sport is valuable, knowing the course like the back of your hands helps too.
Racing out of the 16th bib, Svindal slammed the Flyway, the gliding top portion of Birds of Prey, coming out there with a 0.6-second lead at the time. Svindal recorded a split time on that interval of 27.01 seconds. The closest time by a realistic competitor on that part of the course was Fayed, 27.44.
Most importantly, Svindal beat his teammate Jansrud on that split by exactly half a second.
This was the race within the race.
“I knew I couldn’t be behind him on the top because then I would have a hard time,” Svindal said. “That was almost my important section, killing the top part.”
And while the 2007 and 2009 World Cup champion had a good lead off the Flyway, he did a very good job taming The Brink, where the world seemingly falls away, and the Talon Turn, points on the course where pretty much the rest of the field lost time.
“For sure, I knew the pitch (The Brink and Talon) was my strongest part to play,” Jansrud said. “I thought I skied good, and hats off to Aksel. In training, I was really fast (there). In the pitch today I only had him by, I think, 5-hundredths there, and we were 1-2. It made it tough to catch up on the time I lost up top.”
Svindal joked that he was a good glider but, “you don’t win without fast skis. My skis were amazing today,” noting the podium was all on Head Skis, and giving props to his technicians.
While happy to come away with the win, Svindal said he was happy he didn’t have to run Birds of Prey again in a downhill.
“It’s so fast this year,” Svindal said. “It’s kind of risky. I almost still have stomach pain because I knew I had to charge hard in that section to win, but I didn’t really feel like it. Every sense in your body tells you to slow down.”
With three wins in as many speed starts, Svindal has the early lead in the World Cup points with 307. Do keep in mind that only tech skiers have only ran one race so far this season, the Soelden, Austria, giant slalom in October.
It’s nothing in size compared to, say Austria, but the Norway Ski Team is certainly dominating early on this year. Of course, few nations have a 1-2 punch like Svindal and Jansrud.
Jansrud looked fast all week, winning both training runs here after taking ninth in the Lake Louise downhill and seventh in the super-G.
“It’s good to have Kjetil as your training partner, the world’s No. 1 (in downhill and super-G last year),” Svindal said. “We’ve been switching back and forth, who’s fastest in training. I think training has a really good quality because no one wants to be behind.”
Friday was Jansrud’s turn to be following the leader, but he had no complaints.
“Not again,” Jansrud joked of Svindal’s fast start. “No, that’s the way it is. If you’re in good shape, that’s the way it runs. If there was anyone who could do it today, it was Aksel.”
Ironically, Jansrud was one of the few to gain time on the lower half of the course.
France’s Fayed, who missed the podium in Canada by 4-hundredths of a second to American Travis Ganong, earned the first podium of his career at Beaver Creek.
“My run was a good run on the top, and then on the rolls, I made some mistakes,” the Frenchman said. “I lose a lot of time. At the bottom, I tried to go more faster and I think I win my podium in the last part.”
American Andrew Weibrecht was the surprise for the hosts. “The War Horse” made some magic flying from the 34th bib to a tie for fifth place with Switzerland’s Carlo Janka. Friday’s finish will certainly help Weibrecht in his continuing quest to earn a top-30 starting position in future World Cup downhills. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, the defending super-G Birds of Prey and world champion, took fourth in Friday’s downhill.
Birds of Prey continues today with the super-G at 11 a.m.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.