Kvitfjell, Norway Mar. 5--Daron Rahlves' magical victory tour slowedSunday as - after back-to-back downhill wins in less than 24 hours - hefinished fifth in a World Cup super G on the 1994 Olympic speed run.Kristian Ghedina of Italy won his first SG with Austria's World Cupleader, Hermann Maier, finishing second and setting a record for mostpoints in a season.
Outdoor Life Network will televise coverage of the weekend tonight at 7EST.
"Terrible day, huh? Boy, when they 'go South,' they go so fast," U.S.Head Coach Bill Egan said in mock disdain after Rahlves failed in hisbid for an unprecedented third win in 48 hours. "Yeah, Daron's done -over the hill...he's gone."
Ghedina, who was left muttering Saturday that he'd beaten the Austriansbut still couldn't win after Rahlves nailed his second DH victory in arow, was timed in 1:28.56 for the 12th victory of his career. The winalso snapped a run of 21 consecutive super G wins by Austrian skiers,going back to Frenchman Luc Alphand's SG win at Garmisch in February1997. Maier, the first skier to go over 1,700 points in a season,boosted his total to 1,760 with a 1:28.94 clocking. Andreas Schiffererof Austria was third in 1:29.52.
Rahlves, called "The Beach Boy" by the Norwegian media because of hisCalifornia background and his bleach-blond hair, lost time in the middleof the race and finished in 1:29.68. Casey Puckett (Crested Butte, CO)was the only other U.S. skier to score, finishing in a tie for 23rd withClaude Cretier of France (1:31.16). Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) was 45thand Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY) 48th. Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) skiedout on the upper half of the course while Chris Puckett (Boulder, CO)went out near the finish.
"Only" 5th produces "funny feeling"
"It was a great way to cap the week," Rahlves said. "It's a kinda funnyfeeling, though - it's tough after two wins to settle for anything else.If I'd known a week ago I was gonna get a fifth in super G - that'sdefinitely my best super G result of the season - I'd've been sohappy...and I still am. Any time you get a top-5 in a World Cup, it's agreat run.
"I was close to the podium - just 16-hundredths off - and it wasdefinitely worthy. I felt great, felt super relaxed, maybe too relaxed.It's been a draining two days....I need some days off to recharge andsoak it in a little more."
The course for the sixth super G of the winter was different up-topfrom the Olympiabakken run where Rahlves led training Wednesday and ledeverybody again Friday and Saturday at race time. The super G courseempties into the bottom of the DH run.
"We had fantastic conditions...couldn't have gotten any better," Egansaid. "The snow was hard, so fantastic for skiing. You could've started80th and had good conditions.
Egan: "We'll take as many of these..."
"Daron skied really well, too. He had good splits at the top and hadgood sections at the bottom, but somewhere in the middle he had someproblems," Egan said. "Still, not a bad weekend. We'll take as many ofthese as we can get. In some ways, it was like watching Tommy Moeagain; Tommy skied for the pure pleasure of it and so does Daron, andhe's re-found the fun in his skiing."
Head DH/SG Coach Dale Stephens added, "Daron said it was a littleanti-climactic after two wins, but it was a great weekend for Daron...hegot pushed out into soft snow in one part of the middle section and thatcost him."
"Yeah, I really killed some time there," Rahlves said, explaining hewas expecting higher speeds on the run, but after some snow during thenight, it was a bit slower. "I gave some extra room in some spots,trying to ski smart instead of making a tactical mistake. I'd rather bea lose on some turns than too tight. I wanted to keep the momentumgoing," he said.
Egan and Stephens also gave Casey Puckett high grades for histenaciousness in moving up in super G, finishing the World Cup seasoninside the top-30 finishers, which was one of his goals for the season."He's been scoring cconsistently in super G," Egan said, "and next yearhe'll be even more of a contender."
Rahlves: "We've been on the right track"
In addition to the jump-start Rahlves' victories in Kvitfjell gave tothe U.S. Ski Team, the coach noted, is the fact he's only 13 points awayfrom being a 400-point skier for the season - although he's over 400 inthe 12-month World Cup start list, which gives him a preferred startspot in any event after the first seed is set. Rahlves, noting, "I wantto be a three-event skier," said he plans to train more and race moregiant slalom next season.
"I want to close the season strong, take it into the WorldChampionships next year at St. Anton, Austria and then the Olympics.These'll be exciting years," he said, adding his ultimate goal is to bea World Cup champion. "I want to be holding one of those globes at theend of the season."
He said being carried around the finish area Saturday by his teammates,who dumped him off at the foot of the podium following his second win,had special meaning. "It's amazing what a week like this can do for me,for the Ski Team, for the federation USSA; it shows we've been on theright track," according to Rahlves.
The next race on the men's Cafe de Colombia calendar is a giant slalomWednesday in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, with a slalom Thursday night inSchladming, Austria, and another GS Saturday in Hinterstoder, Austria.World Cup Finals are March 15-19 in and around Bormio, Italy.