Americans lay down exciting runs for home crowd at Birds of Prey downhill
BEAVER CREEK — Americans thrilled the crowd at the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS World Cup downhill on Friday.
At their only home event of the season, the U.S. team made use of the major advantage it had: knowledge of the run.
Steven Nyman said the cancellation of training runs on both Tuesday and Thursday might have worked out in his favor.
“I’ve probably skied this hill more than anyone on tour,” he said. “So it’s an advantage to me.”
With natural snow layering on top of the man-made snow on the race course, Nyman said it changed the feel of the track, but the Americans had a lot of confidence in the course workers who slipped the snow off the course before their runs. Bryce Bennett, who tied Nyman for ninth, attributed some of his success on the course to its workers.
“I think they’re doing a really good job right now of slipping it after every two guys,” Bennett said.
Those course workers include the fathers of U.S. skiers Jared Goldberg and Aspen’s Wiley Maple, who finished 51st. Goldberg said having his dad on the crew gets him some inside info once in a while.
“Yesterday, we couldn’t get on the track and no one knew how it was going to be,” Goldberg said. “He told me it’s a little insulated, it’s a little soft.”
FEELING THE ENERGY
Goldberg said he was happy to hear the U.S. team had accomplished one of its goals for the weekend already on Friday: They gave the fans something to cheer for.
“The light and the clouds were in and out today,” Goldberg said. “Usually it gets rougher and it gets harder for guys to be faster, the good guys already got to go on their nice, easy track, where it’s smooth because they get to run early, but I think today having the light go in and out, maybe there were some more green lights than there usually are.”
Nyman had a green light early in his run, clocking the fastest split of the day for the very top portion of the course.
When the fans saw that the veteran U.S. team racer was in first in the early part of the race, it set things up for an electric atmosphere throughout the run.
“I feel that energy, and I believe that energy helps me,” he said. “It’s always good to cross the finish line and see them erupting. The timer is so far away I couldn’t see how I did, but I could see the crowd erupting and I knew it was an OK run.”
ATTACKING FROM THE BACK
American Ryan Cochran-Siegle is an example of a skier who benefited from the unusual conditions that gave the later racers a shot at a top 30. A top-30 result scores a racer World Cup points, which help them earn better starting positions in future races.
Cochran-Siegle ran 51st and finished just off the points in 32nd.
“It was pretty forgiving for the end guys, which is pretty rare in downhill,” Cochran-Siegle said. “I think it makes ski racing interesting when you still have guys who can throw it in there from the back. It makes the crowd want to stick around and watch everyone ski.”
Cochran-Siegle’s run was an exciting one, with him in contention for a top 30 or even a top 15 until the very end.
“It was a good run until I made a little mistake on the bottom,” he said. “I just didn’t do a good job of absorbing that terrain and it just kind of squashed me, put me in the back seat.”
Nevertheless, the early part of the run “made it exciting,” Cochran-Siegle said.
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