Birds of Prey touches down at Beaver Creek; racing starts Friday with super-G
BEAVER CREEK — We’re good.
It’s snowed. It’s cold. After two years of warm weather, it actually feels like winter for the 2018 Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS World Cup.
What a novel concept.
With that out of the way, let us Prey.
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Up in Canada, the men had their first set of speed events and the vets reigned.
The downhill podium was Austria’s Max Franz, followed by Italy’s Christof Innerhofer and Dominik Paris.
Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr, who got his first career win at Birds of Prey last year, was fourth, and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who has six wins at Beaver Creek, took eighth.
In the super-G, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won, followed by Kriechmayr and Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel. Jansrud is no surprise — that’s his fourth win in five years up in Lake Louise, Alberta. The Norwegian has five podiums, including one win here.
While Lake Louise and Birds of Prey are different styles of courses, the latter being much more technical, it isn’t a bad gauge.
Austria’s Hannes Reichelt (four wins total here — three on the regular stop and super-G gold at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships) was fourth in last weekend’s super-G, followed by Svindal.
It’s not surprising that vets dominate in speed. With the world going by so quickly, experience is key.
Innerhofer, Paris, Svindal, Jansrud, Reichelt and Kriechmayr should all be a part of the story line this week.
Steve Nyman was 11th in downhill, followed by Bryce Bennett in 12th. Travis Ganong was 38th, but led Team USA in the super-G in 17th.
The U.S. Men’s Ski Team is in transition, particularly in speed. Ganong is coming off an ACL, as is Nyman. Bennett probably had the best season last year.
In tech, or more specifically, giant slalom, Ted Ligety is always The Man (six career wins at Beaver Creek), but he hasn’t had a World Cup win since Soelden, Austria, in 2015. Last year, he returned from a back injury, proceeded by a knee. We hope, but do not have high expectations.
On the American front, perhaps, the most intriguing prospect is River Radamus. Raised here and having grown up watching Birds of Prey, the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail product got his first World Cup start in GS in Beaver Creek last December.
He’s a go for Sunday’s giant slalom and may be in Friday’s super-G.
While we never encourage illegal wagering, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher is the favorite in Sunday’s GS. All Hirscher does is win in tech events.
He’s riding a steak of seven straight World Cup titles, a record, has won four straight GS globes, five of the last six slalom globes and has 59 career wins and counting.
Throw in six Worlds golds and two Olympic wins, and we are seeing the best men’s racer of this generation.
Bird of Prey is more of speed event with downhill, super-G and GS, so Hirscher is often out of the spotlight. His main role has been to foil Ligety in the GS, even though Ted and Hirscher have won six times each at Beaver Creek.
Wanna really ruffle some feathers? Hirscher is the best Austrian racer of all time. Yes, better than Hermann Maier. Hirscher leads in World Cup wins, 59-54; Worlds golds, 6-3, World Cup globes, 17-14 and World Cup championships, 7-4.
Hirscher’s so good, he’s boring.
How normal. We’re looking at highs in the 30s and 20s for the week. We’ve got a 40 percent chance of snow showers on race days. The biggest factor, especially with Friday’s super-G and Saturday’s downhill, is wind.
When you’re going 70 mph off a jump, wind is a problem. The forecast is for wind in the single-digits. Keep your fingers crossed.
Mikaela is still good
Birds of Prey is part of a twin bill. The men race here, followed by the ladies up in Lake Louise, and it makes for a prime time doubleheader in Europe.
Lindsey Vonn is out, but Mikaela Shiffrin should make some waves up north. Last year, she finished third in the first downhill, won the second and finished fifth in super-G. If one views Shiffrin as purely a technical skier, these are bonus points.
That said, Shiffrin seems intent on adding more speed in 2018-19, so look out in Lake Louise.
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The Italian ended Mikaela Shiffrin’s three-year reign as overall World Cup champion.