Local skiers to lead pack

Ski racers invited to forerun Beaver Creek World Cup

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The best Alpine ski racers in the world will make their way down the Birds of Prey racecourse in Beaver Creek this week, but not before Steamboat Springs' Drew Roberts gets his shot.

"Right now I'm just excited," the promising young ski racer said about getting an invitation to forerun the events. "I'm sure when I get there, I will be nervous. It's a little nerve-wracking when you get a time on the same race course as the best skiers in the world."

The 19-year-old Roberts and teammate Patrick Duran are expected to step into the gates and forerun the super-G, giant slalom and slalom events for the Beaver Creek World Cup race. Duran also might step into the gates for the downhill.

The World Cup competition opens today with the super-G, the downhill will be Friday, the giant slalom will be Saturday, and the event will conclude with the slalom Sunday.

Roberts is hoping the World Cup experience will be the first of many.

He spent much of the last year training with the U.S. Ski Team, including 45 days on snow this summer preparing for this season.

His coaches in Steamboat have been impressed by some promising results early this season, and they are not surprised that his name came up as a forerunner for the World Cup event.

"Forerunning will be a great experience and a chance to step into the spotlight at a World Cup event," Roberts said.

It is the latest honor for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club member who is off to a fast start for the 2004-05 season. He opened at a NorAm ski race held on an icy course at Jackson Hole Ski Area two weeks ago. Roberts said it was a disappointing showing, but Alpine Director Chris Puckett didn't see it that way.

"A lot of really good skiers, including Bode (Miller) and Erik Schlopy went out in that race," Puckett said. "Conditions were brutal, and Drew should be proud of his effort. I think it will turn out to be a good learning experience for him."

Roberts rebounded a few days later with a sixth-place showing at the first FIS Rocky Mountain Trophy Series slalom race Nov. 24 in Breckenridge. His Winter Sports Club teammates Joshua Bryan and Patrick Duran tied for 17th, and Joel Adams placed 28th. Pierre Egger of Austria won the race in a time of 1 minute, 38.62 seconds. Drew Roberts was the top American and top junior in the race, finishing in a time of 1:40.58.

Roberts skipped the first slalom race of the series, which was held Nov. 23 in Breckenridge. Jure Kosir of Slovenia won that race, and Bryan was the top Steamboat ski racer, in 19th place.

Steamboat coach Tom Davis said the fields of both the men's and women's events were loaded. The entire U.S. Ski Team was on hand hoping to warm up for the World Cup, and many international racers -- also in the regional for World Cup and NorAm racers -- were on hand.

The women's field was especially strong with American Kristina Koznick winning the first race Nov. 21 in a time of 1:32.73, and Austrian ski racer Marlies Schild winning the second event Nov. 22 with a time of 1:41.59.

Steamboat had several skiers show well in the second of the two slaloms, including Madeline McLean, who started in the 96th slot but moved up finish 32nd. Lisa Perricone started 54th and finished in 36th, Tina Roberts opened in the 64th slot and placed 41st, and Anabelle McLean also made a big jump after starting 129th and finishing 48, and Priska Sorenson started 133rd and moved up to finish in the 53rd spot.

"The women's field was stacked," Davis said. 'Our girls skied solid races, and I think it was a valuable learning experience for them."

Several of Steamboat's top skiers will compete in a men's NorAm in Beaver Creek early next week, some will travel to Lake Louise in Canada for several speed events Dec. 8 to 15 before returning to Colorado for a split venue FIS Rocky Mountain Trophy Series race Dec. 17 to 22. The series will begin Dec. 17 and 18 with two super-G events in Winter Park. The men's team will remain in Winter Park for giant slalom races, and the women will come to Steamboat on Dec. 19 and 20. The event will conclude with slalom racing Dec. 21 and 22 in Steamboat Springs.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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