Weibrecht pulls a late shocker
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” History will say that Michael Walchhofer (Austria), Steven Nyman (U.S.A) and Didier Cuche (Switzerland) had the best run during Friday’s Birds of Prey downhill.
But the most memorable charge came from American Andrew Weibrecht. The 21-year-old from Lake Placid, N.Y., logged his first World Cup points with 14th in Thursday’s super combined.
Friday, he stunned everyone assembled by taking his No. 53 bib and turning it into a 10th-place finish.
“The kid’s been skiing so fast,” teammate Nyman said. “(Thursday), he proved it. I taught him a little secret down here and he did it.”
When asked what the tip was, Weibrecht said, “I don’t even remember. It was just a blur.”
Call it a red-white-and-blue blur. Nyman was second, Bode Miller sixth and Weibrecht made it three Americans in the top 10, while Scott Macartney was 20th, and in the points.
“I remember being here probably three or four years when we had three guys in the top 10 and that was awesome,” Weibrecht said. “Now I’m helping out with that. This is everything I dreamed of. I think the team’s in a great place.”
Weibrecht was referring to the 2004 Birds of Prey downhill when Miller, Daron Rahlves and Bryon Friedman went 1-2-7. For the trivia nuts, the United States packed four into the top 10 last year with Miller (first), Nyman (third), Macartney (seventh) and Marco Sullivan (10th).
While the Americans did not win the official Birds of Prey downhill for the first time since 2003 ” Rahlves’ win that year was transplanted race ” it was still a superb day for the team.
Whether Bode Miller is with the team or skiing as an independent, the Americans are showing that there is some serious talent in the pipeline.
“It’s huge for our team. I had a little falter today,” said Sullivan, who finished a disappointing 40th after taking silver in a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend. “Stevie stepped right up and took my step on the podium. Every week, we’re going to have contenders to win races, not just in downhill but across the board in all events. Watch out for us this year.”
And Sullivan said that long before Weibrecht got settled into the starting gate.
Look out for the gate
Traditionally, downhills are all but done after the 30th skier goes. The top racers have gone, the podium is set and those skiing afterward are just trying to move into the top 30 for World Cup points.
Weibrecht had other plans. He turned in one of the most memorable runs in the 10 years of racing at Birds of Prey.
“I had my line picked out. I knew where I wanted to be,” Weibrecht said. “I was just going and trying to be as close to that. A couple times, I hit the line and there were a couple of situations where I wasn’t where I wanted to be.”
The closest comparison one could draw to Weibrecht’s run was Miller’s cliff-hanger of a giant-slalom performance here in 2005.
Weibrecht plowed into a gate coming out of The Talon, but held his speed.
“That wasn’t in the plan,” Weibrecht joked. “I was just trying to take it one section at a time on the way down. After I went through the gate, I left it behind. I just kept going.”
Russi’s Ride was exactly that for Weibrecht, a wild one, with his skis flying out from underneath him. But he was rolling. He hammered Golden Eagle and The Abyss, posting the third-fastest interval time of the day there.
“I was just trying to keep my feet underneath me, and that almost didn’t happen a couple of times,” he said.
As Weibrecht came into view of the finish area, the partisan crowd was in a full roar having watched No. 53’s split times on the scoreboard. Once past the finish line, he looked at the board in disbelief.
“If you had told me that at the beginning of the day, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Weibrecht said about going from bib No. 53 to 10th. “I had a hint when I came through the finish when I heard the crowd that I had done pretty well. I was expecting 25, 26.”
Weibrecht continued to look a little awe-struck by his accomplishment as he was mobbed by the press, whose interviews were joyfully interrupted by bear hugs from teammates and coaches.
Bode and Big Mac
Miller struggled by his lofty standards here, having won twice at Birds of Prey. His pole slipped coming out of the start, but The Talon ended up slowing him down.
“To go on my hip on Talon turn, that’s the end of your chances to win,” Miller said. “I took huge risks after that. I skied really well. There just isn’t a whole lot of time to pull the race back after that.”
To his credit, Miller has finished both of his races so far this week with a fourth in super combined and sixth in the downhill. With 90 points in two races, Miller is fourth in the overall with 157. More importantly, he is just 21 points behind Austria’s Benjamin Raich, who is essentially the overall leader with Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal injured.
Macartney also had a good day considering he had only a brief look at the course Tuesday during training. He crashed on The Talon and went hard into the netting. With training snowed out Wednesday and not being on the start list for Thursday’s super combi, Macartney skied to a very good 20th.
“If I were to go back up and ski again, I could trim half a second at least just on a couple turns,” he said. “It’s tough to have no timing.”
Sullivan had a host of family and friends donning green ski caps, but stumbled after his podium in Lake Louise.
“I really wanted to back that up today,” Sullivan said. “I felt good. I might have got a little cocky. I was feeling strong. I tried to ski a line I really couldn’t pull off. I’m glad I stuck to my plan and tried to do it.”
He hit a patch of ice on The Talon and couldn’t recover, finishing out of the points.
T.J. Lanning, who took 10th in Thursday’s super combined, was a DNF.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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