Beaver Creek primed for downhill
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – The Birds of Prey World Cup downhill course is running fast just a day before race day, and the racers expect the track to get even faster by the 11 a.m. start Friday.
With two training runs out of the way, the top guys are ready to push hard. They’ve inspected this course and learned from their mistakes – they hope – enough to correct them and go for it Friday.
Austrian Hannes Reichelt finished on top Thursday with a time of 1 minute, 43.64 seconds. The next fastest guys were close behind, with Austrians Matthias Mayer and Klaus Kroell rounding out the top three, respectively. There’s just more than a second and a half separating the top 12 guys based on Thursday’s training run, but ski racing can come down to hundredths of seconds, so the guys will have to pick up the pace.
Kroell said the competition is strong this year, with the top threats including Didier Cuche, Aksel Lund Svindal, Bode Miller, Reichelt and the Canadians.
“[There are] 10 people, I think, who can win tomorrow,” Kroell said.
Reichelt felt he gave it his all Thursday, but he knows he didn’t have a perfect run. He said he wasn’t perfect on the line, so he needs to correct that in the race.
In terms of his aggression and energy going into the downhill race, Reichelt feels he’s where he needs to be. He averaged nearly 60 miles per hour in Thursday’s training run.
“It’s hard to say how I can push tomorrow harder,” Reichelt said.
He said the conditions on Birds of Prey are perfect right now.
“The course is very fast, and you have a lot of grip, so it’s nice to ski there,” Reichelt said.
Swiss skier Didier Cuche, who finished first in Wednesday’s training run and fifth Thursday, will need to pick up more speed Friday for the win. He said he was a little bit faster Thursday and was pushing hard, but plans to go harder Friday.
“I changed what I didn’t really do well yesterday and it worked, but not everywhere,” Cuche said. “I have to see with the ski and boot what I’m going to try to be the fastest tomorrow. A lot of strong guys are skiing now.”
Cuche said he struggled in The Talon portion of the course Wednesday, and in the flat before Golden Eagle.
“I didn’t ski enough on the line where you carry speed,” Cuche said. “I changed it today. I worked pretty well, but in other spots it didn’t work.”
Bode Miller looked strong Thursday and was the top American finisher, coming in eighth with a time of 1:44.73. Miller didn’t talk to the press Thursday, but he said after Wednesday’s run that the snow on Birds of Prey is as good as he’s ever seen it.
Reichelt knows Miller will be one of the guys to beat. He called Miller “the top favorite” for the race after Thursday’s training run, adding that Cuche and the Swiss skiers are also looking good.
Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, who is a giant-slalom specialist and less of a speed man, finished fourth in Thursday’s run. He said he’s been working on his speed training for a couple of years but it never seemed to pay off until this season.
The Birds of Prey course is more technical, which is helpful, he said.
“Now at least I can keep up with the guys in flats, which is huge advantage if you’re a technician,” Jansrud said.
Mayer, who finished second Thursday, admitted that he missed a gate – fine for a training run, but it would get him disqualified on race day. Because missing a gate doesn’t matter so much in an unofficial training run, it’s usually unknown who made such mistakes unless the skier fesses up to it.
Aside from the mistake, which he plans to watch video footage of in order to correct it Friday, Mayer said he feels “really good.”
“I’m very happy for today’s training and I’m ready for tomorrow,” Mayer said.
Carlo Janka, the Swiss skier who won all three disciplines at Birds of Prey in 2009, finished seventh Thursday. The downhill race was canceled in 2010, so Janka remains the defending downhill champion at Beaver Creek.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.