The Birds of Prey 2007 rundown
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” No snow. No problem.
Although the weather gods might have a little fun with us by finally favoring us with some powder this week, we’re ready to go for Birds of Prey 2007.
We’re set for two days of downhill training today and Wednesday. The races begin with the super combined Tuesday, followed by downhill Friday, super-G Saturday and giant slalom on Saturday. Today’s training begins at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday’s training and all races start at 11 a.m., except for Sunday. The GS begins at 9:45 a.m.
I got here in 1997 when Birds of Prey opened for its test runs leading up to the 1999 World Alpine Skiing Championships. About the only thing one can take from seeing these races year after year is that you absolutely never know what is going to happen ” with the possible exception of Hermann Maier winning all the time during the course’s early days.
We’ve had Maier and Lasse Kjus tie in a super-G during Vail ’99. There’s been Daron Rahlves first win for an American on home snow since Bill Johnson did so in the early 80s in 2003. That race was meant to occur in Val d’Isere, France, by the way.
Bode Miller and Rahlves flip-flopped podium positions in 2004 and 2005. Bode ran one of the more terrifying and exhilarating giant slaloms anyone has ever seen in 2005. And that seemed like a mere prelude to his super-combi collapse last year, which was naturally followed by a downhill win the next day.
You never know, so you’d better watch.
– We’re going to start this year’s observations by saying we’ve got no idea what Bode Miller’s going to do this year. None. Zero. Zippo. His career was summed up in two days here last year. He absolutely gagged in the super combined, blowing a 2.04-second lead in slalom, and then promptly won the downhill the next day.
By the way, let’s try to make sure no coaches slide onto the course this year. Covering Bode’s confusing enough as it is.
We don’t pretend to know what’s going on in Bode Miller’s mind. We know that his fans love his living-on-the-edge style. It’s exasperating for us. About all we can tell you is that he’s going to be on the podium or a total flop.
– Since his Bode-ness is skiing as an independent, let’s talk about the Americans. Bravo to Marco Sullivan who’s coming to Birds of Prey with a second place in his pocket at last weekend’s Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill. We always get a few American surprises on home snow. But Steve Nyman shouldn’t be much of surprise. He was third here in the downhill in 2006. Ted Ligety has bronzes the last two years at the Beav.
We’re certainly not against Bode doing well, but it would be nice to see guys like Ligety, Nyman, Sullivan or Erik Schlopy (Go Sabres!) do the home fans proud.
– Welcome back to the super-G. Last year, the super combined took its place on the program. Super combi is a great event, but it shouldn’t have been done at the expense of ye olde super-G. Now, we’ve got the best of both worlds. The super-G bounces the slalom out of the rotation, but you can still see alpiners banging gates during super combi.
– With the super-G back, a helpful reminder. Don’t try to pick this race. Bjarne Solbakken in 2003, Stephan Goergl in 2004 and Hannes Reichelt in 2005 all got their first World Cup wins at the Birds of Prey super-G.
– Along these lines, one of the many fascinating things to watch is a newbie winning his first World Cup race or making his first podium. In last year’s slalom, Sweden’s Andre Myhrer and Canada’s Michael Janyk went 1-2, and it was clear their lives had changed forever.
– We’re not meant to be rooting for people, of course, but we’re fair and balanced just like Fox News. We’d love to see Austria’s Hermann Maier win one more time here. Everyone has enjoyed the Bode-Daron Rahlves show of the last few years, but this is Maier’s snow.
He won seven straight starts at Beaver Creek from 1997-2000. Before last year, he had 18 top-10s in 19 starts there. Included in that stretch was a 2003 downhill win after his motorcycle accident. It’s a tall order, but we would love to see this one more time.
– While we’re on the subject, please name the last person not named Maier, Miller or Rahlves to win a downhill at Birds of Prey. Answer below.
– OK, Austria, what’s the deal? When Birds of Prey opened in 1997, you could pretty much call it Kitzbuehel West. While Americans have won a downhill here the last four years, the Austrians have continued to be a machine until last year ” one podium in four events. For the trivia-inclined, that was Ranier Schoenfelder with third in the super combi.
That just doesn’t cut it for skiing’s powerhouse. Look for the Austrians to come back big this year. Benni Raich to the white courtesy phone.
– The name to watch this year is Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. He was the beneficiary of Bode’s bonk in the super combi. That started his run to the overall title with six wins, including the downhill at the World Cup Finals. He also had two golds at Worlds in Are, Sweden, win GS and downhill for good measure.
– Trivia answer: Stephan Eberharter in 2002. We’ll give you extra points if you knew that only six skiers have won the downhill at Birds of Prey ” Maier (four), Miller (two), Rahlves, Eberharter and Kristian Ghedina and Andreas Schifferer (both in 1997).
Let us Prey.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birds of Prey 2007 schedule
Downhill training, 12:15 p.m.
Downhill training, 11 a.m.
Downhill, 11 a.m.
Slalom, 2:30 p.m.
Defending champion: Aksel Lund-Svindal (NOR)
Downhill, 11 a.m.
Defending champion: Bode Miller (USA)
Super-G, 11 a.m.
Defending champion (2005): Stephan Goergl (AUS)
First run, 9:45 a.m.
Second run, 12:45 p.m.
Defending champion: Massimiliano Blardone (ITA)
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