VAL d'ISERE, France (Dec. 9) -- The last time an American man won a World Cup giant slalom, it was 1983 as Phil Mahre nipped Swiss racer Max Julen by one hundredth of a second in Furano, Japan. Sunday, Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) overcame a near-spill at the top of his second run and "cruised" to victory by 0.02 seconds over Frenchman Frederic Covili.
"I like to attack right from the start," said Miller, who was second November 26 in a slalom that concluded the Chevy Truck Aspen Winternational in Colorado. Friday, Miller -- who was five years old when Mahre won that GS -- had crashed in a super G and Saturday the Carrabassett Valley Academy grad was 32nd in a downhill on the famed Oreiller-Killy course.
"I was fired up, anyway, but going down on my hip made it urgent that I ski well. It was my left...or maybe my right...I'm not sure now -- it was pretty quick, about 20 meters..."
Added Head Slalom/GS Coach Jesse Hunt, "You know if Bode gets to the finish he will have been fast. He really skied the middle of that second run well. Going down on his hip really tightened his focus and he was so on it after that, attacking down the fall line. It was so beautiful to watch."
OLN coverage this week
Outdoor Life Network will televise coverage of the race Thursday at 9 EST. OLN also will have coverage Monday at from 8-10 p.m. EST of the super G and downhill which opened the World Cup weekend in Val d'Isere.
Mahre's win March 19, 1983 at the World Cup Finals over Julen, who would win the Olympic GS 11 months later in Sarajevo, was the twin's third GS victory of the month. The closest any American male has come to winning since then -- until Sunday -- were a pair of seconds last season Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) in Bormio, Italy, and at the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden.
Miller, who moved into second place in World Cup standings behind Stephan Eberharter of Austria, was third in the first run behind Eberharter, who already had won the downhill and super G this weekend. The Austrian had looked almost bulletproof as he also led the first run in 1:14.08 -- 0.12 seconds ahead of Covili, 0.32 up on Miller. But Miller smoked the icy second run and held off Covili; Eberharter appeared to lose his strength, making several small mistakes as he came down the mountain and eventually finished a distant third.
Miller's winning time was 2:36.02. Covili checked in at 2:36.04 with Eberharter's two-run time 2:36.82. Schlopy, 10th in the first run, was 25th in 2:39.46 and no otherAmerican made the top-30 cut for the second run.
"I was trying to attack..."
"It was a cranky course, really weird, but I was trying to attack it," Miller said. "I boosted a turn right before I went down, the best turn I'd ever made, but my tips went over too far and I didn't get enough purchase. But, at the same time, that's not the first time it's happened so I'm pretty well prepared to do something about it.
"So I got up quick and got going again. I've recovered from a lot worse," he said. "I was pushing it to the limit."
He skied under control in the first run but after sizing up the situation between runs, Miller felt he was in good shape, 0.32 behind Eberharter and 0.2 off the time for Covili, who won the season's first race in Soelden, Austria, just before Halloween.
"First run I definitely held back. There was no reason to risk it then," Miller explained. "I think I can ski consistently and be with these top guys. "I made a mistake at the top, and it was icy on the bottom and I slid a couple of times on the ice but still was third with just three tenths to make up, so second run I pretty much let it go.
"Slalom is a pain in the buttocks region to let it go -- there's such a small margin of error -- but in GS, if you're on it, you can get back up and get going again. So, slalom, if you want to let it go, you also have to be willing to accept defeat; today, I wasn't going to accept loss or a DNF Did Not Finish..."
Coach: "Bode stole the show"
Hunt said the conditions -- rain four days ago and then continual cold to solidify the run -- were hard for the entire field, and several skiers in the back half of the field broke in, and a couple of U.S. skiers just missed the top-30 cut again. Chip Knight (Stowe, VT) was 36th, 0.26 out of the top 30, and Dane Spencer (Boise, ID), 39th.
"It was really slick on the lower, just slick, slick ice because of the rain, but Bode handled it fabulously..."
"This was definitely top shelf," Hunt said. "Bode really stole the show."
The men's gate-runners cleared out quickly after the race, bound for Madonna diCampiglio, seven hours away on the other side of Italy, where they have a night slalomMonday. "It's a good challenging hill. I'm looking forward to it," Miller said.
CAFE DE COLOMBIA WORLD CUP
Val d'Isere, FRA - Dec. 9
Men's Giant Slalom
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 2:36.02
2. Frederic Covili, France, 2:36.04
3. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 2:36.82
4. Massimiliano Blardone, Italy, 2:36.85
5. Michael Von Gruenigen, Switzerland, 2:37.12
25. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah, 2:39.46
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt.; Dane Spencer, Boise, Idaho; ThomasVonn, Newburgh, N.Y.; Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif.; Brett Fischer, Winter Park, Colo. --
Men's Overall (6 races)
1. Eberharter, 340 points
2. Miller, 225
3. Covili, 180
4. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 170
5. Mario Matt, Austria, 164
53. Schlopy, 21
57. Rahlves, 19
58. Casey Puckett, Aspen, Colo., 18
92. Marco Sullivan, Tahoe City, Calif., 4
94. Jake Fiala, Frisco, Colo., 3