Birds of Prey downhill time: Who will it be?
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – On behalf of the racers, media, spectators and Beaver Creek crew and volunteers, it’s safe to say we are sufficiently trained.
We’ve had three days of training – a site must conduct one run to have a downhill, under FIS rules, and Beaver Creek, which seemingly always has a training snowed out, added a third session to be on the safe side, and naturally, once that was done, the sun came out this week – and we’re ready to race.
It’s the downhill at 10:45 a.m. Friday.
Thursday’s training session was pretty much a poker match. All involved pretty much didn’t show their hand. How else do you explain Italy’s Christof Innerhofer logging two top-10 finishes in the first two runs and then finishing 67th out of 68 Thursday.
And let’s just face it, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal can ski backwards and still win a training run these days.
Interpret training however you may, but did you notice that Austria’s Klaus Kroell, Max Franz and Georg Streitberger finished 5-6-7 after Thursday’s run? Don’t believe in coincidence, people. There’s no such thing.
It’s been a fast track all week in training which has made talking heads (like us) think about Daron Rahlves’ course record of 1 minute, 39.59 seconds. Does the course bite back on race day?
As much as the talk in the media corral has been centered around who’s not here – Didier Cuche (retired), Beat Feuz and Bode Miller (injured) – this is a stacked field.
Who joins the honor roll of Birds of Prey downhill champions?
The format: This is simple – fastest down the hill wins. One run only.
Weather: A high of 45? This entire week has felt like we’ve been in Hawaii. More blue skies Friday.
Birds of Prey past champions: Kristian Ghedina (1997); Andreas Schifferer (1997); Hermann Maier (1999 Worlds, 1999, 2000 and 2003 World Cup); Stephan Eberharter (2002); Bode Miller (2004, 2006 and 2011); Daron Rahlves (2003 – transplanted run from Val d’Isere, France – and 2005), Michael Walchhofer (2007), Aksel Lund Svindal (2008) and Carlo Janka (2009)
Downhill stats: The course drops from 11,427 feet at the top to 8,944 feet at Red Tail Camp. It’s a descent of 2,484 feet. The course is 8,606 feet long.
No. of racers: 66.
Intervals: Flyway, The Brink, Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss.
Look out for: The Flyway and the Brink. Strong gliders can pick up speed up top. Svindal said earlier this week he things it’s straighter this year. Golden Eagle Jump usually has a say in the outcome.
Americans (bib number): Travis Ganong (23), Marco Sullivan (31), Ted Ligety (33), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (44), Steven Nyman (45), Wiley Maple (52), Thomas Biesmeyer (59) and Andrew Weibrecht (63).
Favorites: Well, Svindal (18). He’s on a wee bit of a roll. Discount the Austrians – Kroell (21), Franz (3) and Streitberger (6), as well as Hannes Reichelt (20) – at your own risk. Is Ganong ready to make the jump? He and fellow American Marco Sullivan have looked very sharp this week.
Darkhorses: How about France’s Guillermo Fayed (2)? He’s never won on tour, but has been on this week. Switzerland’s Carlo Janka (13) pounded this course in 2009. Canada’s Erik Guay (17) is quietly having a good week.
Chris Freud: Italy’s Peter Fill (7).
Lauren Glendenning: Svindal.
Celebrity picker, Pat Graham of The Associated Press: Svindal.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.