KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia March 1, 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Bode Miller had quite a weekend.
He reclaimed the World Cup overall lead from Hermann Maier, won his third giant slalom event of the season and replaced Kalle Palander atop the discipline rankings.
Miller also might have made his biggest mistake of the season when he failed to qualify for the second leg of a key slalom race Sunday. He squandered a crucial chance to protect his lead from overall contenders Maier, Stephan Eberharter and Benjamin Raich.
The blunder put Miller at a disadvantage with only six races remaining this season—only two in technical events, which favor him. The four in the speed disciplines favor Maier, a three-time winner of the overall, and two-time defending champion Eberharter.
``I'll just have to ski fast in the downhill and super-G,'' said Miller, who is looking to become the first American overall champion in more than two decades. ``I would have liked to ski fast in both anyway, but now I have to.
``I'll definitely need points in the super-G and downhill because the way Maier is skiing, he can win those.''
Miller recaptured the overall lead from Maier, as well as the discipline standings from Palander when he won a giant slalom Saturday.
On Sunday, he missed a gate in the slalom, hiked back up and skied the gate but finished four seconds out, failing to finish in the top-30 qualifying group.
It was a badly wasted chance for Miller, with Maier just eight points back and not skiing slalom.
``I wouldn't change my tactic if I could,'' said Miller, who has failed to scored points in six slalom races in Kranjska Gora. ``Things happen pretty quickly in slalom. It doesn't mean if you take risks you'll go out. Just like you can take no risks at all and still go out on the fifth gate. That's slalom.
``I felt good on my line, then suddenly I was on my hip. Once I got back into the race, I took a lot of risks and I was fine to the finish.''
Truls Ove Karlsen won the race in 1 minute, 42.72 seconds, with teammate Tom Stiansen runner-up in 1:42.80. Former slalom world champion Mario Matt completed the podium, crossing third in 1:42.99.
Raich, a technical specialist who needed points in Sunday's slalom to keep alive any realistic chance at the overall title, also blew it, skiing off course in the second leg.
Last year, Miller finished second in the overall. This season, he announced from the start that without an Olympics or world championships, he was looking to win the overall World Cup championship with a secondary goal of winning a discipline title.
Miller has won 12 races in his career, including six this season—the most since Phil Mahre in 1983 when he won the World Cup's overall and giant slalom titles.
The American heads into the final six races—two downhills, two super Gs, a giant slalom and another slalom—with 1,084 points. Maier is second at 1,076 and Raich is third with 999.
The men next travel to Norway for a downhill and super-G scheduled March 6-7 in Kvitfjell, the Olympic speed course north of Lillehammer, before going to Sestriere, Italy, for the World Cup finals, which start March 10.
``Those hills are great, but I haven't done well there in past,'' Miller said. ``But I've made significant changes in my equipment and I'm hoping that will help me in Norway.
``I have confidence. I've been skiing well all year and the last (speed) races have been really coming together for me.''
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