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The lowdown on the downhill

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” This is it.

Yes, there are two more days of racing after today, and we don’t doubt they’re going to be great. But the downhill at 11 a.m. today is the mother of all races in the alpine world.

It’s corny, but the legends are made in this race. Hermann Maier dominated here. Daron Rahlves called his win in 2005. Last year, Bode Miller dodged a a green- or orange-clad coach in the Birds of Prey downhill.

The concept is simple “just go down this icy slick at 70 mph.

No problem.

The nitty-gritty:

Weather: Weather.com says 35 degrees, which means around 25 degrees at Red Tail, still positively balmy for Birds of Prey. Afternoon snow showers are in the forecast, but things should be long done by then.

Birds of Prey defending champion: Miller.

Past Birds of Prey champs: Kristian Ghedina (Italy, 1997); Andreas Schifferer (Austria, 1997) Maier (Austria, 1999 Worlds, 1999 World Cup, 2000, 2003); Stephan Eberharter (Austria, 2002); Miller (2004, 2006) and Rahlves (2005).

Downhill stats: The DH drops from 11,427 feet at the top to 8,944 feet at Red Tail Camp. That’s a plummet of 2,484 feet. The course is 8,606 feet long.

Number of racers: 62.

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

Look out on the downhill: There was obviously some work done on the Golden Eagle Jump-Abyss combo from Tuesday’s training to Thursday’s super combined, but it’s not to be taken lightly. Watch The Talon, but even higher up may be the key. Gaining speed on The Flyway is critical. That’s where big D won it in 2005. On the other hand, everyone was losing time Thursday on the bottom of the course. We’ve pretty much covered our bases here, no?

Americans (bib number): Steven Nyman (8), Miller (21), Scott Macartney (24), Marco Sullivan (25), Andrew Weibrecht (53), T.J. Lanning (59).

Home snow: Americans have won four of the last five downhills here, dating back to 2003. The sequence is Daron, Hermann, Bode, Daron and Bode.

Favorites: Based on how they’ve been running so far this week, don’t bet against Switzerland’s Didier Cuche or Nyman. They were 1-2 in both Tuesday’s training and Thursday’s super-combined downhill. Don’t be surprised is Bode uncorks one here either. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer is looking good and skiing’s powerhouse is due at Beaver Creek. Speaking of which, go Hermann!

Darkhorses: Watch out for Italy’s Peter Fill, Austria’s Tobias Gruenenfelder and Canada’s Erik Guay. If you want an American sleeper ” he’s not much of sleeper because he was second last week in Canada ” it’s Sullivan.

Staff picks:

Freud/Death pick: I did it to Benni Raich again picking him for the super combined. I’m not going to go with Nyman because he doesn’t deserve this fate. Bode is tough enough to break this jinx.

Ian Cropp: Cropp-ster had Nyman Thursday and was looking good for a while. Ian goes with Stevie Ny again today.

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


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