Thursday, December 3, 2009
Beaver Creek Naturally, by the time the 80th racer — Sweden’s Markus Larsson — of Wednesday’s downhill training came down the Birds of Prey course, the sun was out and the sky was a postcard blue.
The forecast of 1 to 3 inches of snow turned out to be a lot more than that, delaying Wednesday’s first day of training by 2 1/2 hours and shortening the course in half.
“It’s nice. I skied the bottom of this course fresh for once, instead of being super-tired,” American Andrew Weibrecht joked. “You can’t usually enjoy it because your legs feel so bad.”
With 7 inches of fresh snow, the training run, originally scheduled for 11 a.m., ended up starting at 1:40 p.m. from the Birds of Prey course’s giant-slalom start, which amounted to running the lower half of the course.
Switzerland took the top two spots with Ambrosi Hoffmann edging out teammate Ralf Kreuzer by one-hundredth of a second with a time of 49.07 seconds. France’s Yannick Bertrand (49.09) finished third, followed by Austria’s Mario Scheiber (49.10) and Slovenia’s Rok Perko (49.13).
With shoveling being the main activity of the day, racers used their brief runs to get a feel for the snow and the jumps on the bottom half of the course.
“It was quite a nice run, for sure. It was short. It was better than nothing,” said Austria’s Benni Raich, who finished second in the overall standings last year. “The first steep part, there was a lot of snow, but I think tomorrow we’ll do the (whole course).”
Last year’s podium in the Birds of Prey downhill — Norway’s Aksel Lund-Svindal (57th), Liechtenstein’s Marco Beuchel (51st) and Canada’s Erik Guy (58th) — didn’t crack the top 50, which really doesn’t portend much.
Austria’s Michael Walchhofer, who won the downhill World Cup globe last spring, was 22nd, while American Bode Miller landed in 47th.
But most of the contenders this week already know this track well. That list could soon include Weibrecht, who logged a career-high 10th-place finish here in 2007 with a hair-raising run from the 53rd bib. on Wednesday, the Lake Placid, N.Y., native went 57th and ended up in a tie for sixth with Sweden’s Patrik Jaerbyn and teammate Erik Fisher. This could be part of a trend for Weibrecht, who skied from high bib numbers to 12th-place finishes in last weekend’s downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“I think right now — and I don’t like to make a statement like this — but I don’t think my start numbers reflect how I’m skiing,” Weibrecht said.
“I’m not trying to do anything special. I’m just trying to ski within myself and it keeps working out. I’m psyched.”
The biggest bib move, however, belonged to Croatia’s Natko Zrncic-Dim, using No. 65 to slide into a four-way tie for 10th, which included American Marco Sullivan.
American Ted Ligety used the day to point his tips downward. While no stranger to the course, he’s finished third, fourth and second the past three years here in GS. Ligety thought the bottom half of the course had a few more turns than usual. That along with an eighth-place showing in the Lake Louise super-G, not his usual forte, has him feeling good about his chances in Friday’s super combined.
“For the combined, it should be really good,” Ligety said. “We didn’t ski the top pitch that’s been really turny. The whole bottom part, it ran well. But it was definitely turny.”
He’s not the only technical skier liking the conditions.
“I think the best chance for me is in the GS (Sunday),” said Raich.
The field will try to get a full training run in today, starting at 11 a.m. at Beaver Creek.