February 19, 2005
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP by Erica Bulman)--Michael Walchhofer won his second World Cup downhill race in two days, leading a 1-2-3 Austrian sweep ahead of Bode Miller on Saturday and closing in on the discipline title.
Walchhofer easily won Friday's downhill and again tamed the Kandahar course, finishing in 1 minute, 56.50 seconds for his third consecutive World Cup downhill victory overall.
``It was bumpier and more difficult today,'' Walchhofer said. ``But I did it and it is really satisfying after all the troubles I've had here in the past.''
Walchhofer finally shook off a long, troublesome trend of crashing on the final turn here. In previous races, he'd crashed four consecutive times on the tricky FIS-Schneise, then last season he lost a healthy advantage after skidding onto his backside in the turn and finished 16th.
``It looks like I finally learned to ski that turn,'' Walchhofer said.
Teammate Mario Scheiber was second Saturday in 1:56.59 for his first World Cup downhill top-three finish, while reigning Olympic champion Fritz Strobl was third in 1:56.95.
World downhill champion Miller finished one spot off the podium with a time of 1:57.03, while U.S. teammate Daron Rahlves was fifth.
``I made two mistakes, one that cost me almost a second,'' said Miller, who led at the first two intervals in the previous day's downhill but lost time after going wide coming out of the bothersome FIS-Schneise turn and settled for third Friday.
``The way I've been skiing these days, it's pretty disappointing to be making those kinds of mistakes. It's pretty frustrating.''
Miller did add to his advantage over Austria's Benjamin Raich in the overall World Cup standings, though.
The American now leads with 1,203 points, 167 ahead of Raich, who finished 17th in Saturday's race. Walchhofer overtook teammate Hermann Maier for third place, with 865 points. Maier is fourth with 846.
Walchhofer, 29, has finished on the podium in all but one downhill this season; he was 20th in the wind-skewed race at Val Gardena, Italy. His latest victory leaves him with 631 points in the World Cup downhill standings, 143 ahead of Miller. Another Austrian, Johann Grugger, is third with 383 points.
It was a strong day for Austria's women, too: Michaela Dorfmeister and Alexandra Meissnitzer gave the country a 1-2 finish in a super-G at Are, Sweden.
With just two downhills left on the men's World Cup schedule and 200 points up for grabs, it's nearly impossible for Miller to overtake Walchhofer.
The two races left are in Kvitfjell, Norway, and the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
``For every downhiller, the World Cup title is a dream and at the moment it looks very good for me,'' Walchhofer said. ``If I ski the next two races like I can, it looks good for me.''
Miller is Walchhofer's only realistic threat. The 27-year-old American won the season's opening two downhills and snatched the downhill title from Walchhofer at the world championships in Bormio two weeks ago after also winning the super-G gold medal.
Rahlves had widely been expected to take over the downhill title this season after finishing second to Stephan Eberharter the last two seasons. But a bad crash in a giant slalom in Adelboden put a dent in his campaign.
``It's not possible really for me now,'' Rahlves said. ``Walchhofer's been crushing it in every single race. I've been fast but just it's little things here and there. Looking back on it, it's tough to take.''
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press