Weather turns Birds of Prey into predator |

Weather turns Birds of Prey into predator

Ian Cropp
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyItalian skier Walter Girardi loses control on the upper section of the Birds of Prey course on a wild Thursday during the men's World Cup super-G at Beaver Creek.

BEAVER CREEK – For some World Cup Ski racers on Thursday, Birds of Prey was more of a predator.In the super-G race, 17 of 56 racers did not finish.Most of the racers who missed gates said heavy winds limited visibility of the course.”There was so much wind that I couldn’t see the ground, and couldn’t see the next two or three gates,” said Bruno Kernen of Switzerland.Both Alessandro Fattori of Italy and Finlay Mickel of Great Britain said they had never been in a race with such adverse conditions.”In all my career, I never drew a race in this condition,” Fattori said. “It was unbelievable how windy it was on top. If you didn’t see it, you couldn’t understand.”Visibility was more of a problem on the first third of the course, and skiers had trouble seeing the lay of the terrain.”On the top, it was too difficult to be fast and see the land,” Fattori said. Fourteen of those who didn’t finish never made it to the second split time. “The one section before Pumphouse, I was running a line and getting thrown around in the bumps,” said Mickel. “I came out and was punched out of the course.”American Justin J. Johnson was one of the few to make it to the third split before missing a gate.

“By the fifth or sixth gate, it was so heavy up the hill that I kind of guessed where the panel was,” Johnson said. “That was OK, but then just a little bit on down the line, I tried to make up too much time, and I ended up where you didn’t want to be.”And some, like America’s Bode Miller and Slovenia’s Jerman Andrej, pulled off the course because of a pair of frozen goggles.Dealing with the elementsOf the 17 who didn’t finish, 13 started in the second half of the day.The final two racers of the day, Canada’s Jeff Hume and Italy’s Massimilliano Blardone, both had problems dealing with the terrain.”Around the Pumphouse there is a fall-away roll and sharp turn, and it really got chopped up there,” Hume said. “Guys were either missing gates before that or right after. I got stuck in that top, and didn’t attack the way I needed to.”Sweden’s Hans Olsson thought the weather was better earlier in the day, but America’s Marco Sullivan didn’t see much of a difference.”Anyone could have been in the top 10,” Sullivan said.A few racers were visibly upset after not finishing, showing their displeasure at the spot where they missed a gate, or in the racer’s corral.Others, like Johnson, were all smiles.

“It was a good race, but a tough one,” Johnson said. “I was happy how I came out at the start. The first few gates, I felt good, but I didn’t ski smart after I made a mistake.”And Mickel was quick to poke fun at himself.”To this date, I’ve not made the super-G in the World Cup yet. I’m keeping my 100 percent record of DNF,” Mickel said. “One day I’ve gotta solve that problem.”Race debateA voice of displeasure echoed in the racer’s corral that the super-G wasn’t canceled.”We are an outdoor sport, and you can’t expect sunny skies and great conditions, but when the wind is blowing and I don’t see the ground, it’s dangerous, and I hope that doesn’t happen anymore,” said Switzerland’s Bruno Kernen. Olsson said Thursday’s super-G was one of the toughest he’s ever raced.”I think they should have canceled it, but it’s up to them,” said Olsson, who also noted that nobody was injured in the race.Austria’s Benjamin Raich thought the conditions weren’t ideal, and was happy with making it to the finish line safely.”It wasn’t a good result, but I’m in good health and I finished,” Raich said. “And that’s a good thing today.”

Fattori said it would have been better to stay in his room, and hopes he may end up there for today’s downhill.”I hope for a lot of wind and a lot of snow and they cancel the race,” Fattori said. “Then I’ll be happy.”Birds of Prey conditions reminded Hume a bit of last weekend’s race in Lake Louise, Alberta.”The number of DNFs was not surprising,” Hume said. “There are a lot in Lake Louise, too.”Still, Hume didn’t have a problem with the race going on as scheduled.”You have to go out everyday and try your hardest,” Hume said.And Canada’s Manuel Osborne thought the race results weren’t tarnished at all by the weather.”The guys who skied the best won today,” Osborne said. “The best skier always wins.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or, Colorado

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