Adelboden, Switzerland (Jan. 14) USST - Hermann Maier returned to ski racing, World Cup leader Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) dodged a bullet in his duel with Stephan Eberharter of Austria and Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) - in 22nd place - was the lone U.S. skier to finish Tuesday as Austrian Hans Knauss was the unexpected victor, winning his first giant slalom in seven years.
Maier, the former Olympic, Worlds and World Cup champion, who has been sidelined since a motorcycle crash in August 2001, skied 13th and was .05 away from making it into the second run in his first race in nearly two years.
In getting his sixth World Cup win, Knauss, whose only previous GS triumph was in Alta Badia, Italy, in December 1995, had a two-run time of 2:29.68, which held up when Didier Cuche of Switzerland and Austrian Benjamin Raich, the top two skiers in the first run, skied out and Italy's Massimiliano Blardone, No. 3 in the morning, ran into problems at the bottom of his run and skidded to eighth place. Swiss great Michael Von Gruenigen was second and Norway's Kjetil Andre Aaodt third.
Rahlves was 15th in the first run but "got sideways on an under-gate" midway through his second, Head Coach Phil McNichol said. "He was having a great day and was .33 ahead, on track for a solid top-10 until he had his problem." He finished 22nd in 2:35.08.
"It was a tough day, very frustrating," McNichol said. "Bode was 30 seconds in the course and he walked out of his ski again (as he had done in the Park City slalom in November). That one hurt because he was going fast, looking good." Miller maintained his 35-point lead on Eberharter, however, when the Austrian failed to finish his second run. But he lost his GS points leadership; Miller had won the two previous giant slaloms this season, in Alta Badia and Kranjska Gora, Italy, but Von Gruenigen took over the lead by finishing second.
Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) was sixth in the first run but went into the safety netting in the middle of the second run. "He was in great shape," McNichol said, "but dug an edge in and high-sidded it, flying hard into the fence...but I think he's okay."
The coach said course conditions "were great. It was a fantastic trail. They watered (injected) the whole course and it was icy, but it gave the guys at the back of the pack a chance, witness the fact four guys in the 50s scored points," led by Norway's Truls Ove Karlsen, who started 50th.
The men move on to Wengen, Switzerland, for a busy weekend with downhills Friday and Saturday plus a slalom Sunday and combined calculation.
Outdoor Life Network will have race coverage Thursday night at 10 EST in its weekly World Cup highlights program.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP RESULTS
Adelboden, SUI - Jan. 14
1. Hans Knauss, Austria, 2:29.68
2. Michael Von Gruenigen, Switzerland, 2:29.77
3. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 2:29.93
4. Heinz Schilchegger, Austria, 2:30.26
5. Frederic Covili, France, 2:30.27
22. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 2:35.08
DNF-2: Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Jake Zamansky, Carbondale, CO; Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NYDNF-1: T.J. Lanning, Park City, UT; Chip Knight, Stowe, VT; Bode Miller, Franconia, NH; Dane Spencer, Boise, ID
Men's Overall World Cup Standings
1. Miller, 690 points
2. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 655
3. Aamodt, 475
4. Didier Defago, Switzerland, 414
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 398
15. Rahlves, 274
38. Schlopy, 136
44. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 102
46. Knight, 97
72T. Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA, 39
79T. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 29
84T. Vonn, 24
117T. Spencer, 9