Cochran-Siegle looks to take momentum from Saturday’s Birds of Prey downhill

Ryan Sederquist
Vail Daily
Ryan Cochran-Siegle reacts after finishing during a men's World Cup downhill on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Beaver Creek.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

BEAVER CREEK — Ryan Cochran-Siegle didn’t feel any extra pressure competing on U.S. soil at Saturday’s Birds of Prey downhill, even though he did so this time as an Olympic silver medalist. The Beijing Games’ super-G runner-up placed seventh, 1.06 seconds behind winner Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, to lead a crew of seven Americans.

“I’ve had some good races here in the past and having that confidence, especially for the downhill (helps),” he said. Saturday was his third top-10 downhill finish at the venue. He was sixth in both 2019 and 2021. Reflecting on his run, he felt like there may have been opportunities for seconds to be shaved.

“I think, I know how to ski a section well, it’s just a matter of connecting it top to bottom. I didn’t quite do that today, but I think I have it in my head so I’m hoping for the future I’ll be able to perform a little better.”

Travis Ganong, who placed 27th, one spot behind his teammate Bryce Bennett, had a similar sentiment.

“Yeah, I mean you always want to go back and do it again once you know all the information of what’s going on on the hill,” he said. Ganong, wearing bib 20, felt the winds increase at the top of the course throughout the day.

“It’s tough when the conditions are constantly changing,” he said. “Normally, that fits right into my wheelhouse — I’m good at adapting at things — but today, my plan was to kind of come from behind in a few sections because of the soft snow, but because I was a little bit higher and above the tracks, I kept getting caught in piles of snow or sticky snow — it was really weird.”

“If you were a foot or two off the line in a couple of spots, the snow was just grabby,” he continued. “I almost went over the handlebars a couple of times. Yeah, tough conditions.”

As the morning wore on, skiers found themselves skating farther and farther from the starting gate. Cochran-Siegle, who said he’d struggled in the upper split during both training runs, channeled his inner Jessie Diggins for the race.

“I was trying to just work the terrain, skate as hard as I could and stay aero up there,” he said. “You don’t really know what the wind is going to be. I skied it fairly well, but I knew that I really had to attack the rest of the slope.” 

Ganong was on the podium in the 2021 Birds of Prey super-G, and both Team USA athletes remain optimistic for Sunday.

“That was awesome,” he said of last year’s result. I just hope I can get an early start position and then just have a fun run. The soft snow on the hill right now — going early is going to be critical.”

“Tomorrow you have to reset and refocus and channel the type of skiing you want to do for super-G,” Cochran-Siegle said.

“It’s a slightly different event. This hill is a pretty big challenge, depending on what the set is and how the snow is, so you gotta attack it. And I think I have to bring a lot of intensity straight out of the start, the way that it’s set — just really steep.”

Cochran-Siegle finished ninth in the Lake Louise downhill on Nov. 26 and currently sits in eighth in the discipline standings.

“So, try to keep this momentum going, keep feeling that connection, turn to turn, find the fall line and ski fast,” he concluded.

As far as how the other Americans fared, Erik Arvidsson was 34th, Jared Goldberg was 40th and Steven Nyman missed a gate on the second-to-last turn and was a DNF.

Athletes amazed with Birds of Prey crew’s ability to ready racecourse

With snow dumping late into Friday afternoon, it’s safe to say that the Birds of Prey volunteers and course crew were probably not curling up next to the fire with a cup of hot chocolate. Though Saturday’s conditions proved challenging, several athletes were amazed at the efforts that made competition possible.

“They did a great job of getting the surface down to a good hard surface for our second training run,” Cochran-Siegle said. “I’m so impressed that we were able to race today; the amount of work they had to do — it’s pretty phenomenal.”

“They did an incredible job. Unbelievable,” stated Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. “They got 30 centimeters of snow yesterday and you can’t even see it today. Thanks to everyone putting the work in, I know there were people out there the whole night. That made us have a race today and also, when I skied, I had such a good time.”

Fourth-place finisher Matthias Mayer admitted the storm altered conditions nonetheless. “Of course after such snowfall, it’s always a little bit soft,” Matthias Mayer said, echoing the sentiment of American Travis Ganong.

“It was really tough,” he said. “The conditions — it was really dark. It got really warm. It was cold, wintry snow this morning and then by race time it was really warm. So, the snow was really sticky.”