Who is it going to be in super-G?
Experience or the hot hand? Which do you like?
This is a big question when one gets to the super-G.
Yes, the women’s World Cup field had three or four looks at Raptor, but super-G, which starts at 10:45 a.m. today, can be funky. Racers can only inspect the course set, and there is an art to inspection.
That favors the veterans — Tina Maze, of Slovenia; Julia Mancuso, of the U.S.A; Anna Fenninger, of Austria; Maria Hoefl-Riesch, of Germany; and Viktoria Rebensburg of Austria, who were the top-five super-G point-scorers from last season active for today’s race. They can see the hot spots during that early examination and put it in their game plan.
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Swiss miss on a roll
Then there is the hot-hand theory. Her name’s Lara Gut, and the Swiss miss is clearly on a roll. Whether one believes in training results or not, she threw down on Friday in the downhill. Austria’s Tina Weirather is also running quite well this week.
Or do we have a first-timer? Birds of Prey has quite the history of first-time winners in super-G. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who knows a thing or two about ski racing — the men are racing downhill up in Lake Louise, Alberta, today — had as good an explanation as any for that phenomena. He said that when the course is set, some of the veterans take it down a slight notch to finish in the points — and not risk the DNF — while the youngsters just go all out and one stumbles into a perfect line which results in that victory.
Things that might give skiers an edge
And does Raptor just give an edge to super-G skiers in general? Yes, small sample size, but it did say here on Friday that one of the race keys for the downhill was “building speed on the top and being technically proficient enough in the middle (section). That was Gut’s run, and the middle section is where the super-G starts.
Another factor: With the warm weather, does an early-start number mean better snow? Elena Fanchini, of Italy, certainly would have agreed with that on Friday. She finished in her bib number: third.
Things to know for today
Here’s today’s rundown:
• Format: One run, morning inspection only of the course set.
• Number of racers: 66.
• Weather: Remaining glorious. Mid-30s again at Red Tail and sunny. The Vail Daily is not trying to be the chamber of commerce here. It’s just great weather, people. We will pay for this next week.
• Past World Cup winners: Lindsey Vonn won on Birds of Prey here in 2011. That was a transplanted Val d’Isere, France, race. Austria’s Alexandra Meissnitzer was the 1999 Worlds champion in Vail. And going into the way-back machine, Germany’s Katja Seizinger won the World Cup Finals super-G in 1997, also in Vail.
• Super-G stats: Going down? 2,296 feet, to be precise. The start is at 10,892 feet. The finish is at 8,956.
• Look out for: The Kestrel was a beast on Friday. It probably won’t greet anyone any more nicely today. Then there is the Liberty turn, which is quickly becoming known as “Liberty Left.”
• Americans (bib No.): They are looking for a rebound day, and they are Laurenne Ross (10), Leanne Smith (13), Mancuso (22), Stacey Cook (38), Megan McJames (51), Jacqueline Wiles (52), Anna Marno (55) and Julia Ford (56). Congratulations and good luck to Marno in her first World Cup start.
• Favorites: Gut (18). If you’re wondering, the last racer to sweep a Beaver Creek weekend was also Swiss, Carlo Janka in 2009. He ended up winning the overall for 2009-10. (Yes, it’s very early.) And now we list a few already mentioned — Maze (20), Fenninger (21), Hoefl-Riesch (19), Rebensburg (16) and Weirather (11).
Darkhorses: We did not list Mancuso in the favorites. We should know better. She hasn’t been skiing well this week, but it could happen. Keep your eye on the Americans in the top 30 — Ross and Smith — as well as Austria Regina Sterz (23). We’ve also got a funny feeling on the early starters, especially Austria’s Nicole Hosp (1) and Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec (3).
• Media picks:
Shauna Farnell, former Vail Daily ski-reporting goddess: Hoefl-Riesch.
Chris Freud, Vail Daily: Gut.
Pat Graham, AP Denver: Gut.
Massimo Lopes Pegna, La Gazetta Dello Sport, Milan, Italy: Maze.
Melanie Wong, Vail Daily: Gut.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.