Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves return to Birds of Prey downhill event | SummitDaily.com

Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves return to Birds of Prey downhill event

Chris Freud
cfreud@vaildaily.com

BEAVER CREEK — The boys are back.

Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves return to Birds of Prey today before the downhill kicks off.

The ceremony to honor Miller and Rahlves is at 10:20 a.m. The race is at 11 a.m.

We've already documented how important the two were to the development of Birds of Prey as a World Cup venue.

But look at the list of winners on this course. Sure, Rahlves-Miller-Rahlves-Miller looks good. There is no one on this list that provokes a "huh?"

From Kristian Ghedina to Aksel Lund Svindal, this list is a who's-who of downhill racing for the last 20 years.

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Who adds their name to the list today?

A moment for appreciation

Rahlves won this downhill twice. Svindal twice also. Miller did it thrice and defied time to get his third in 2011 at 34.

Hermann Maier winning downhill on Birds of Prey four times is going to be hard to beat.

The three in a row came during his phase of dominance. Not only did Maier do that by crushing all competition at Birds of Prey — the three straight downhills were a part a run of seven-start winning streak at Beaver Creek — but he was doing it around the world.

The Herminator's 2,000-point season in 1999-2000 is still a record on the men's side. From 1997-2001, he pretty much was Larry Bird walking into the NBA All-Star Game's 3-point shooting contest, asking, "Which one of you is finishing second?"

Don't forget that Maier probably shouldn't have gotten a fourth title. He nearly lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident on Aug. 24, 2001.

He missed a season and a half. He was never the dominant force again. One could see him struggling to keep his right ski down.

But he could still summon the magic. He did so here, winning in 2003 and reflecting in the post-race news conference, "Last year I was watching this race in a bar, and now I'm here."

The points

The podium for the first downhill of the year in Lake Louise, Alberta, was Switzerland's Beat Feuz with the win; Matthias Mayer, of Austria, in second and Svindal.

Italy's Peter Fill won the World Cup downhill title last year with Norway's Kjetil Jansrud second and Feuz third.

Is earlier better?

In theory, the prime bibs for speed events are 15-22. But, as Friday, Dec. 1's super-G showed, the early worm can get the bird.

Yes, sunny conditions vs. flat light can vary by the minute, as it did on Friday, benefiting winner Vincent Kriechmayr, of Austria. The steeps, which started the super-G course and will be the middle of today's downhill, can get a little choppy in warmer conditions.

Friday's podium with bibs was Kriechmayr (3), Jansrud (15) and Hannes Reichelt (7), and Jansrud needed all of his veteran guile to gain time on the lower section of the course to do so.

One look at the start list confirms the racers are thinking this way. Bib No. 1 is Svindal. Austrian Max Franz is going second, followed by the Swiss Feuz and Patrick Keung 3-4. Fill is No. 5.

The picks

None of our panel had Kriechmayr, but was very respectable, nonetheless. Usually, the sports editors' pick gets hit by a bus before the race even starts.

Pat Graham of The Associated Press had Jansrud (second). Vail Daily sports editor Chris Freud had Reichelt (third), and Vail Daily sports writer John LaConte had Domink Paris.

Our picks for today:

Freud: Feuz.

Graham: Svindal.

LaConte: Jansrud.

Sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

Birds of Prey Downhill Winners

1997 — Kristian Ghedina, Italy

1997 — Andreas Schifferer, Austria

1999W — Herman Maier, Austria

1999 — Herman Maier, Austria

2000 — Herman Maier, Austria

2002 — Stephan Eberharter, Austria

2003 — Herman Maier, Austria

2003 (Val d’Isere) — Daron Rahlves, USA

2004 — Bode Miller, USA

2005 — Daron Rahlves, USA

2006 ¬— Bode Miller, USA

2007 — Michael Walchhofer, Austria

2008 — Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway

2011 — Bode Miller, USA

2012 — Christof Innerhofer, Italy

2013 — Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway

2014 — Kjetil Jansrud, Norway

2015W — Patrick Keung, Switzerland

2015 — Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway

W indicates FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.