KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia Jan. 4, 2003 (USSA)--Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) stormed through the second run of a giant slalom race with the fastest time Saturday, to claim his second World Cup win of the season and take the World Cup points lead for the first time by an American man since Phil Mahre in 1983. Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT), laying down the second-fastest final run for his best result in two seasons, tied for fourth, just two-hundredths of a second away from second place.
"We nearly had 'The Big One'—1-2 for the guys," said a jubilant SL/GS Head Coach Martin Andersen. "It's good snow: hard and icy—icy but not slick, probably the best conditions of the winter.
"Bode skied so well again and Erik was down twice on his second run and still had the second-fastest time," Andersen said. The temperature was in the low 30s.
"The light was gnarly, but Bode just skied out of his mind and Erik skied so well, too. It was pretty impressive," Head Coach Phil McNichol added.
"It was a great day and very close to a stupendous day," said Schlopy, who was fifth in a GS at Park City in November, a big step back in his return from the mononucleosis and bronchitis which hobbled him a year ago during the Olympic season.
In collecting the sixth World Cup victory of his career, Miller—who again skied with a FOR RENT sign on the front of his helmet—was third after the first run, trailing Austrian Beni Raich. His near-flawless second run gave him the victory with a total time of 2:04.05. Austrian Christian Mayer was second in 2:04.98 with Finn Sami Uotila third (2:04.99). Schlopy and Raich tied for fourth in 2:05.00. No other U.S. man qualified for a second run.
SKIING "SOLID" BRINGS VICTORY
"I was pretty solid," Miller said, "but the light was tough; it was flat—really tough light…but I was psyched. I had a tough first run and I skied better on the second run.
"The first run was just a tough set. It was really turny, cranky back and forth. I attacked as much as I could. In the second run, the course was more open. I was fired-up, I was amped-out and was attacking hard.
"Mostly, the first run was tough for everybody but especially tough for me to go fast with the tough light. I didn't attack that much; I'd hooked an arm in a gate at the top—nothing serious but I lost three-tenths of a second in the first 18 or 19 seconds. Still, it was fine—it was what I needed.
"In the second run, I could attack. We (he and Raich) went across a bunch of ruts, so that was really tough and the light kept getting worse and worse. He just made a few mistakes."
It was the second straight GS win for the Carrabassett Valley Academy product, following his performance Dec. 22, in Alta Badia, Italy, and enabled him to take both the men's overall and GS points leads. Miller has 578 points while defending World Cup champ Stephan Eberharter of Austria, returning from a knee injury in mid-December, was 24th; in GS, Miller has 325 points as he pulled by Swiss icon Michael Von Gruenigen, second with 302.
"If they gave me a trophy for being in the lead in January, that'd be fine," Miller said, "but we have to wait to the end. And there's a long ways to go, a lot of stuff in between now and there at the end.
ALL THIS AND STILL NO SLALOM POINTS
"The good thing is I'm doing so well and I haven't scored any slalom points — but I'm in the lead in GS and I feel I'm ready to score in slalom. It'll be good to get some points."
Reflecting on the near-miss podium for two Americans, which also hasn't happened since Phil and Steve Mahre in Jasna in then-Czechoslovakia, in 1982, Schlopy said, "I'd like to be confident and say it's probable, that it's gonna happen…but it's definitely a possibility, a good possibility."
Schlopy was understandably pleased with his second run and his ability to generate speed when he thought he'd blown an opportunity.
"Every situation is unique," he continued. In Alta Badia, he went down on a hip and couldnn't recover as well, finishing 27th, he noted.
"Today, I made that mistake and I thought, 'Screw it. I'm gonna ski aggressively from here down, ski the best I can. It's not something you can define but I'd made this mistake and I thought, 'There goes the race; it was significant before the flats and my goal was 'Forget the four points (for finishing 27th). I need to ski well and prove to myself I can be fast.' I came through the finish and I put my hand out (to break the timing beam) and I heard the crowd. I looked up at the board and I thought 'Minus 33 (hundredths)? Is that a mistake?'
"I guess I learned a lesson: If you make a mistake, depending on the situation, of course, it's worth it to be aggressive and keep skiing your best," according to Schlopy. "I was surprised with my result but I was more happy to know I could get that result with not a great first fun and certainly an imperfect second run.
"I wanted to give Bode some company up there. I like to think I can ski well to push him. That's not a bad situation."
The men run slalom Sunday in Kranjska Gora. The USA stands third in the overall Nations Cup points behind Austria and Switzerland.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Kranjska Gora, SLO--Jan. 4
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 2:04.05
2. Christian Mayer, Austria, 2:04.98
3. Sami Uotila, Finland, 2:04.99
4. (tie) Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, and Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:05.00 each
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Dane Spencer, Boise, ID; Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY; Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA; and TJ Lanning, Park City, UT
World Cup Standings (15 races)
1. Miller, 578
2. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 555
3.Didier Defago, Switzerland, 414
4. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 383
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 353
16. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 205
33. Schlopy, 112
40T. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 92
48T. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 76
68. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 29
76T. Vonn, 24
88. Rothrock, 17
108T. Spencer, 9
Giant Slalom (5 races)
1. Miller, 325
2. Michael Von Gruenigen, Switzerland, 302
3. Mayer, 230
4. Massimiliano Blardone, Italy, 157
5. Frederic Covili, France, 155
15T. Schlopy, 99
42. Spencer, 9
47. Vonn, 4