Welcome back, Daniel: Today’s GS at Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Welcome back, Daniel: Today’s GS at Beaver Creek

BEAVER CREEK – The press is not meant to root, but we will do so today during today’s giant slalom with runs at 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

Switzerland’s Daniel Albrecht returns to World Cup competition for the first time in nearly two years after a dreadful crash in training on Jan. 22, 2009, in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He had head and lung injuries and was in a doctor-induced coma for three weeks. He’s lucky to be alive.

Before the accident, Albrecht won twice at Birds of Prey in 2007 with triumphs in the super-combined and the GS. He was four wins on the tour and a 2007 Worlds gold in super-combi.

That he is racing today, wearing bib No. 13, is a victory in itself.

And it’s a very safe bet that his 69 so-called competitors will be cheering for him as well.

By comparison, the other plot lines are minor. That said, here we go.

Format: 70 racers will start in the first run. The top-30 finishers advance to the second run. The top 30 will be flipped so that fastest guy in the first run goes last in the second run. A racer must finish both runs to earn points. Just making the flip doesn’t do it. This is the first GS of the season as the traditional opener in Soelden, Austria, was canceled.

Weather: Avon is looking at a high of 39 degrees with a 30 percent chance of snow. That puts things at about 30 at Red Tail. GS only uses half of the Birds of Prey course and the racers are going slower by comparison to speed races. Knock wood, this should be a go.

Birds of Prey past champions: Hermann Maier (1999), Lasse Kjus (2004 and 1999 Worlds in Vail), Miller (2005), Massilmiliano Blardone (2006), Daniel Albrecht (2007) and Raich (2008) and Carlo Janka (2009)

GS stats: Racers drop 1,407 feet from a starting elevation of 10,351. The course is nearly a mile long at 4,806 feet.

Intervals: Golden Eagle and The Abyss.

Ligety?: American Ted Ligety is the World Cup champion in GS. He has finished third (2006), fourth (2007), second (2008) and fourth (2009) in the GS here. It’s not hard to guess what the American fans want today (not to mention Ligety himself).

And after Saturday’s disappointing showing, the Americans would like to see a better day on the slopes.

Look out for: The winner will have to carry speed from the top. Again, it’s not a long course by comparison to speed races, but speed off Golden Eagle and into The Abyss and again off Harrier to the finish will decide it. The last five gates always are the toughest.

Americans (bib number): Ligety (5), Bode Miller (32), Warner Nickerson (33), Tommy Ford (38), Tim Jitloff (43), Will Gregorak (50) and Nolan Kaspar (58). Gregorak is a Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Alumnus.

Favorites: All eyes are on Ligety, but Switzerland’s Janka (4) won it last year here and was second in the globe standings. Austria’s Benni Raich (56) was third. In GS, the top-seven in the run order is the meat of the lineup, so look out for Austria’s Marcel Hirschner (1), Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud (2), Blardone (3), and Italy’s David Simoncelli (7).

Darkhorses: Miller (32) won in 2005. After watching his two runs – he should have fallen multiple times – he’s always in the mix. Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Didier Cuche (15) know this hill like the back of their respective hands. Italy’s Alexander Ploner can make some noise as well.

Staff picks (as always, no wagering):

Chris Freud: Raich.

Lauren Glendenning: Ligety.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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