Although the Lake Louise race track opens the speed season for the World Cup, the Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek are where the adrenalin really starts flowing. Designed ahead of the 1989 World Championships, the race track is a gem kicking out of the start at 11,427 feet above sea level, the highest of any course on the World Cup circuit. The work crew is also among the best anywhere and track preparation is annually praised by FIS men’s director Gunther Hujara. This season appears to be no exception.
The opening training run went to Austrian Klaus Kroell, the defending World Cup downhill champion. Asked what that meant, he clarified in no uncertain terms: “It’s good for confidence, but it says nothing. … It is the first training, so most of the guys are going easier. I think you can hold something back, maybe the others more than me, but I had fun. It was so great.”
Second was Max Franz, Austria’s newest rising star and third was Christof Innerhofer of Italy. Travis Ganong and Marco Sullivan had the top places for the US in 15 and 16 (after 60) and the Canadians had Erik Guay in eighth and Ben Thomsen tied for tenth.
The Birds of Prey downhill tests the entire scope of a racer’s skill set. It has a little gliding, some big time steeps, off-camber fall away turns, compressions and plenty of air. It is not a course for the faint of heart. From the start through the Flyway the ski technicians get tested, too, with waxing and ski prep as important as the racers ability to ride a flat ski. At the Brink, the bottom drops away and speeds climb quickly. The Screech Owl needs to be carried with speed because of a flat which follows and then the Golden Eagle jump, among the biggest found anywhere on tour leads into a dark normally tricky section known as The Abyss. Come out with speed for the Harrier Jump to handle a long cranking couple of turns and down the final Red Tail jump above the finish. The race cannot be won at any one section, but it can be lost at any of them.
The biggest change this season was a bit of course widening at below Screech Owl, designed, apparently, to temper the speed into the big Golden Eagle jump.
Although Colorado had early snow, it has not snowed in this region in more than a week. The snow cover near the village, at 7,400 feet or so is scratchy where it exists at all. The work crew at Beaver Creek is legendary, however, and the race track has received most of the attention leading up to these races. The course it is in its usual spectacular condition. Getting around on skis otherwise can be a challenge, but the snow guns are cranking full bore and area officials expect trails to start opening throughout this week.
This week it is all about the racing.
The USA record in the 16 World Cup downhills held here since the pre-World Championship test events in 1988 has been among the best of any site on the White Circus. Five of 16, including the downhill track record from Daron Rahlves in 2005, have come from the home team. Mind you Austria has six, though they have not recorded a downhill win on the Birds of Prey track since Michael Walchhofer in 2007.
Last season the race went to Bode Miller, who will not race this season as he nurses a knee he had micro-fractured after he pulled the plug on last season at the end of February. At this point there is no specific plan for his return to the tour.
No American male has ever won the Beaver Creek super G, set for Saturday, though Lindsey Vonn claimed the first women’s SG on the course last season. Miller claimed the GS once back in 2005 and Ted Ligety, Mr. GS, recorded GS wins here in 2010 and 2011. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher got his spectacular 2012 title winning season underway with the GS win here last season.
Beaver Creek (USA)
Nov. 27, 2012
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|5||9||421328||SVINDAL Aksel Lund||1982||NOR||1:42.40|
|66||72||191746||DE TESSIERES Gauthier||1981||FRA||1:46.00|
|71||69||491151||DE LA CUESTA Paul||1988||SPA||1:46.67|
|73||61||400281||VAN HEEK Marvin||1991||NED||1:48.47|
|Did not start 1st run|
|84||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA|