What to watch as Birds of Prey returns | VailDaily.com

What to watch as Birds of Prey returns

Looking out for Nyman might be a good idea

Steven Nyman is back on snow after being sidelined with injuries for all of the 2018-19 season. The Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS World Cup starts today with training at 11 a.m.
Frank Gunn | Associated Press

This is why they don’t let me out of the office much.

I’m five minutes into covering my 20th-something Birds of Prey races, and I’ve already cut in front of U.S. Ski Team member Steve Nyman in line on Tuesday.

Note to self, No. 1: He’s won three more World Cups than you, Freud.

Note to self, No. 2: This is what makes the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS World Cup race week really cool. Yeah, you just made an ass of yourself, but that was Steve Nyman.

We welcome back the white circus to town, minus a few memorable characters.

I will miss Marcel Hirscher and his Lou Holtz-like news conferences. I’m sure the Austrian has no idea who Holtz is, but he did the golden domer proud.

“I have no chance. It is impossible,” Hirscher would say every year as he won eight consecutive World Cup titles.

One would have thought by globe No. 5 that he would have given that up.

Cheers to Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal whose career nearly ended here in 2007 before it got going. Enjoy retirement. I remember riding the bus down with Svindal after he won the combined here in 2006. No one else on the bus recognized who the hell he was.

The men’s World Cup is in a time of transition, a time with no megastar, which is actually fascinating.

As ski fans, if the megastar is ours, it’s fun — ahem, Mikaela Shiffrin — but it’s time to see the breadth of talent emerge.

Previously on the men’s World Cup …

• In Soelden, Austria, France’s Alexis Pinturault edged France’s Mathieu Faivre by 2-hundredths of a second in slalom,

• In Levi, it was Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, France’s Clement Noel, and Switzerland’s Daniel Yule.

On the tech side of things, we’re going to see a lot of Pinturault and Kristoffersen, the two racers most eclipsed by Hirscher.

• In Lake Louise, Alberta, Germany Thomas Dressen won the downhill, one year to the date after crashing here in Beaver Creek.

• In the super-G, Matthias Mayer (Austria) won on Sunday. Speed is just wide open.

Americans

• We may have buried the lead here. In Soelden, Tommy Ford was fourth, followed by some guy named Ted Ligety.

Can Ted summon another dose of greatness at Birds of Prey? Shred hasn’t won in four years (Soelden in 2015). If he’s going to do it anywhere, it’s going to be here.

• Travis Ganong and Nyman tied for 10th in the Lake Louise downhill, and Ganong was 12th in super-G. Ganong did his ACL at the beginning of calendar 2018, and couldn’t have been at full strength for the 2018-19 season. Is he turning the corner?

Can Nyman bounce back from being cut on in line by a stupid sports writer and, more importantly, being injured for all of 2018-19?

• How about Bryce Bennett, who has nine top 10s in downhill, but hasn’t hit the podium yet?

• We’re also excited to see youngsters with local roots like River Radamus and Kyle Negomir take their runs this week.

Austrians

This is the one week of the year when I regret being the first Freud in about 700 years not to speak German.

The Austrian Ski Team is covered like the New York tabloids cover the Yankees — on steroids. So what now for Austria without Hirscher?

He took a lot of heat off the team because he won a lot. Who’s next for the preeminent ski power of the world? Mayer won in Canada. Vincent Kriechmayr, who won his first World Cup here in 2017, was third in super-G in Canada. Max Franz is the defending Birds of Prey super-G champ.

Stay tuned.

Weather report

Surprisingly good. Looks clear for super-G on Friday and downhill on Saturday.  We’ve got snow on Sunday, but that’s fine for a GS.

Looking north

As always, we watch here and have one eye turned north to the ladies in Lake Louise. This development just into our Vail Daily headquarters: Mikaela Shiffrin is still good at skiing.

Norway’s Kajsa Vickhoff Lie and Alice McKennis tied in the first downhill training in Alberta with Shiffrin 17-hundredths off the pace.

Training doesn’t mean anything until racers do this in actual races, but that’s pretty amazing.

Happy racing, everyone.

Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS World Cup

Today

Downhill training,  11 a.m.

Thursday, Dec. 5

Downhill training,  11 a.m.,

Friday, Dec. 6

Super-G, 10:45 a.m.

Saturday, Dec. 7 

Downhill, 11 a.m.

Sunday, Dec. 8

Giant slalom, 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.