UPDATE: Luitz leads first run with Ligety, Hirscher in tow
BEAVER CREEK — The stage is set for the anticipated showdown at the Birds of Prey World Cup giant slalom on Sunday, Dec. 3, at Beaver Creek.
After the morning run, Germany’s Stefan Luitz leads the pack with a time of 1 minute, 17.70 seconds, just ahead of American Ted Ligety (0.29 seconds back) and Austrian Marcel Hirscher trailing by 0.39 seconds).
Switzerland’s Justin Murisier and Austria’s Manuel Feller are in a tie for fourth, 0.64 seconds back. Croatia’s Filip Zubcic in sixth is the final racer within one second of Luitz.
The 25-year-old German has never won on the World Cup, but has four giant-slalom podiums during his career, his last coming in Garmisch, Germany on Jan. 29 of last season.
Ligety and Hirscher are the headliners. The two have combined to win the last eight men’s World Cup giant slaloms contested here, with Ligety holding a 6-2 advantage.
Hirscher, running No. 2, had a small bobble at the top of the course on a windy morning. Otherwise, the Austrian was very smooth, gaining speed on the lower half of the course.
Because he missed most of last season, Ligety started 14th, but was clearly back on his game. His finish caused the first real American roar this weekend from the partisan crowd, as he clipped his Austrian rival by 1-tenth of a second.
A wild card for the second run, set for 12:45 p.m., will be the weather. It’s been unseasonably warm at Beaver Creek this weekend. With the top 30 from the first run running in reverse order in the afternoon race, Hirscher, Ligety and Luitz will be the last to run.
While it was overcast for the first run, the sun was breaking out on Sunday, and that may cause choppier conditions for the leaders during the second run.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.