Alpine ski racing: Birds of Prey races rich in tradition | SierraSun.com

Alpine ski racing: Birds of Prey races rich in tradition

U.S. Ski Team report

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. and#8212; With the flags of many nations flanking its sides, the grandstands sit, icy in the cold mountain air. If one listens closely, they might hear the ghosts of its past cheering for alpine’s greats on this, the eve of the 2010 Audi FIS Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek and#8212; American names like Rahlves, Miller, Nyman and Ligety, all past champions or podium finishers on the storied race course.

In its 13th season, the Birds of Prey will carry on its rich tradition of high-intensity action packed Alpine ski racing as its stands fill with hundreds of fans looking to cheer on the likes of Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley, Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and more as they compete in the first race of the three-day series and#8212; a super combined.

If fans took one moment from the 2009 Birds of Prey races with them, it was likely the intense battle for first place in the GS that was separated by a slim hundredth of a second, with Ligety coming out of the hunt in second.

The success of the U.S. in Beaver Creek is fabled and dates back to the 2004 season when Daron Rahlves of Truckee and Miller dominated the downhill for the next five seasons to come. The back-and-forth of wins between the two left Rahlves with two and Miller with three of the five wins the U.S. accounted for in Beaver Creek.

The U.S. has also experienced seven straight seasons of podiums in Beaver Creek, which includes the five wins, six seconds and four thirds. With a streak to carry on in one of the biggest stops on the World Cup tour for the season, the athletes competing this weekend are looking forward to the spirit of the U.S. fans guiding them along.

“It’s great that my friends and family can make it out, and that there’s a big cheering section for all the American guys here,” Ligety said.

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One such cheering section will be there to see Sullivan, a brother, relative, friend and hero of all who sport the “Marco Rocks” hats.

“It’s cool. I don’t get to spend a lot of time with them till after I race, but it’s really cool coming through a finish seeing all the green hats,” Sullivan said. “It gives me more of a reason to perform for my friends and family.”

While the stands may be sprinkled with friends of various nations on Friday, it will be the U.S. fans who stand tall, cheering as they will their American alpine racing heroes over the Red Tail Jump and into the finish.