The Boys Are Back in Birds of Prey Town; Women Take on Lake Louise and Mother Nature
The White Circus rolls on this weekend, landing in FIS Ski World Cup Tour favorite and classic, the Xfinity Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek, Colo. for the men’s speed team, while the women’s speed team heads to Lake Louise, Canada in hopes that Mother Nature will cooperate for a pair of downhills and a super-G.
Let’s start with Lake Louise, shall we?! It’s going to be a tricky one up there, with rain and heavy, wet snow expected. In Tuesday’s downhill training run, the usual suspects rose to the top, including Italy’s hard-charging reigning downhill champion Sofia Goggia, followed by Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, and Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen. Four-time World Cup downhill podium finisher Breezy Johnson led the way for the U.S. women, posting the fourth-fastest time, while two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin started bib 31 and finished 17th (or 12th-fastest, if you take away those who missed gates). The light was flat at many of the women commented that it was the “sketchiest” run they’ve ever taken, but in the end, everyone made it down safely in what may have been their only training run, given the weather.
“Training up here, obviously they’ve been working really hard with the weather, there’s definitely some soft spots and some bally spots they need to clean up, but I think they’re doing a great job,” Johnson said of the conditions up in our neighbor to the North. "I think a lot of people didn’t really expect they were going to be able to get a training run from the top to the bottom today, so it’s good to have that...hopefully we’ll get another training run at some point. Hopefully, it comes together for race day. Given everything, I’m feeling good...the weather looks better for this weekend, so hopefully, we’ll have some sun up here in Lake Louise."
Shiffrin, who has skied on the longboards one day prior to coming to Lake Louise, but has confidence in the form of five podiums across both super-G and downhill, highlighted by a downhill victory in 2017 and a super-G victory in 2018—which put her in the history books as the only athlete (man or woman) in history to win in all six disciplines. “I was actually almost surprised at how much there was a little bit of a response in the surface, that was probably because I actually haven’t skied any downhill, so I didn’t have high expectations...but my skis felt really good and they felt like they were running and I was just skiing solid everywhere, nothing too crazy. I wasn’t pushing too hard, but I felt like it was a really good first run and a good step, and I can build on that and I feel a bit more familiar with the course...so I’ll just try to bring a little more speed and aggressiveness and aerodynamics into it from here.”
A large women’s contingent is up in Lake Louise, and Head Women’s Coach Paul Kristofic hopes to use the second training run on Thursday to determine the final start list for Friday’s race. Thankfully, there looks to be a bit of a break in the weather on Friday so the ladies are all crossing their fingers they’ll get at least one race in.
The men look forward to snagging four opportunities on home soil, as the canceled downhill from Lake Louise last weekend has been added to the program this weekend in Beaver Creek—that makes it two super-G races, followed by a pair of downhill races on Saturday and Sunday. Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who returned to World Cup speed competition in Lake Louise for the first time since sustaining an injury last January at the Hahnenkamm, skied into a respectable top-10 in Lake Louise to lead the men, but he still has more gas in the tank.
During today’s first and only training run at Birds of Prey, though, Cochran-Siegle had some issues with the snow. The Birds of Prey track is widely regarded as the best-prepared track on the World Cup circuit, featuring the snow wizard Tom Johnston (aka “Cowboy”), the legendary Beaver Creek mountain ops crew working in tandem with the Talon Crew, among many volunteers from local clubs who bust their butts to make the surface something special. With warm temperatures heading into this race series, the crew had a challenge but they lived up to it. Under sunny, blue skies, the surface was buttery and smooth, but the warm temperatures presented some issues.
Cochran-Siegle didn’t have a good feeling the entire way down. “Well, I would say my skiing today was not race quality and I need to make adjustments based on what the conditions are in order to be competitive,” he said. “The snow didn’t feel good today, but it was still the same snow that everyone else skied on. It’s up to me to figure out how to ski it the way I would like.”
Many of the athletes came down saying the course was coming at them fast, especially with the lack of terrain this year due to the lack of snow. Cochran-Siegle felt differently. “It didn’t feel like high speeds to me, just that the skis were moving away every turn especially when under high pressure,” he reflected. “It didn’t matter how hard you pushed into the snow either, there was never a response coming back.”
Bennett, who has been tinkering with his boot set-up, on the other hand, had a good feeling. Travis Ganong, who won Vail/Beaver Creek World Championships silver in downhill, also had a smile on his face in the finish area as he greeted his parents and friends donning “Travis Ganong Fan Club” hats. He turned in the 11th-fastest time of the day, though there were many guys who didn’t make all the gates, including the three fastest on the day—Austria’s Max Franz, France’s Matthieu Bailet, and Norway's Adrian Sejersted. Jared Goldberg posted the fastest time of the day among the Americans, in ninth, while teammate and veteran Steven Nyman struggled to find a good feeling too as he makes his way back following an Achilles injury in the summer of 2020.
Celebrate Birds of Prey Legend Ted Ligety
Join us to celebrate two-time Olympic champion and absolute legend Ted Ligety at the Xfinity Birds of Prey. Cheer on this Beaver Creek legend as we celebrate his historic career, including 12 podiums in Beaver Creek, and stick around for a commemorative poster signing on Friday, December 3, from 3:45-4:30 p.m. in Beaver Creek Village. We’ll be celebrating Ligety all weekend, so make sure to come to the downhill race on Saturday too, as there will be a special celebration in Shred’s honor.
For more information on what’s going on in Beaver Creek Village, parking and transportation, and spectator access and viewing, check out bcworldcup.com.
Make sure to tune in to all of the action this weekend as the Fidelity Path to Qualify continues for athletes in the Olympic season. Ligety, who served as an analyst during NBC Sports’ coverage of Killington last week, will also be serving as an analyst this weekend in Beaver Creek, Friday-Sunday, while Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht will be serving as an analyst on Thursday for the men’s super-G and throughout the weekend for the women’s speed series in Lake Louise.
WOMEN’S STARTERS - LAKE LOUISE, TBD
Women’s starters will be determined based on the second training run. The following athletes are currently up in Lake Louise and are participating in training runs.
MEN’S STARTERS - BEAVER CREEK
River Radamus (SG only)
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021
1:45 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Super-G - LIVE, Beaver Creek, CO, Streaming, Peacock
11:00 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Super-G - Same-Day Broadcast, Beaver Creek, CO, NBCSN
Friday, Dec. 3, 2021
12:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Super-G - LIVE, Beaver Creek, CO, Broadcast NBCSN
2:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women’s Downhill - LIVE, Lake Louise, CAN, Ski and Snowboard Live
Saturday, Dec. 4
1:00 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Downhill - LIVE Beaver Creek, CO, Broadcast NBCSN
2:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women’s Downhill - LIVE, Lake Luise, CAN, Ski and Snowboard Live, Streaming Peacock
5:00 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Downhill - Same-day broadcast, Beaver Creek, CO, Broadcast NBC
Sunday, Dec. 5
12:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women's Super-G - LIVE Lake Louise, CAN, Streaming Peacock
2:00 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Downhill - LIVE, Beaver Creek, CO, Streaming Peacock
2:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women’s Super G - LIVE, Lake Louise, CAN, Ski and Snowboard Live
2:30 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Downhill - Same-day broadcast, Beaver Creek, CO, Broadcast, NBCSN
4:00 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Xfinity Birds of Prey Men's Downhill - Same-day broadcast, Beaver Creek, CO, Broadcast NBC
Current television broadcast and streaming schedules for all sports are available here.
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