Kitzbuehel, Austria (Jan. 27) USST -- Hermann Maier is back! And so is the Austrian team, which suffered a rare shutout on the Hahnenkamm downhill podium two days earlier. Maier led a top-five Austrian sweep in winning Monday's rescheduled World Cup super G in Kitzbuehel. Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) in 13th and Jake Fiala (Breckenridge, CO) in 16th led the U.S. Ski Team -- but Miller dropped to second in the World Cup standings, eight points behind Eberharter going into Tuesday's night slalom in Schladming.
Maier started 22nd on a snowy, low-visibility day and posted a time no one could beat in 1:20.48. Christoph Gruber was second, .11 back, with Stephan Eberharter losing the race in the Zielschuss, finishing third .15 behind.
It was Maier's fifth race back on the World Cup after a serious motorcycle accident in 2001 nearly ended his career. Many had thought that he could not come back, and his return at Adelboden two weeks ago caught many by surprise.
"I think when I came back I had too much of an expectation on myself," said Maier. "So I had to change my tactics. Today, in the start, I thought of having one of the best times -- maybe not winning -- but having one of the best times."
Many thought the race would be called, as heavy, heavy snow began about a half-hour prior to start. Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) was the first U.S. victim, pulling out just past the midway point after having trouble keeping on line. Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY) made it to the bottom, but it wasn't pretty. "I took this HUGE air in Johno's section at the top. I knew the jump was there, but I couldn't see a thing and all of a sudden, bam, I'm flying about 50 feet and it felt like I was 12 feet in the air. I was going right at a gate panel." Vonn finished 35th.
Downhill winner Daron Rahlves (Truckee, CA), was never really on pace against the eventual winning times, but lost any chance with a big mistake at the bottom. "I just got too much on my left ski and shot way wide," said Rahlves.
"The super G has been disappointing (for me) this season, with just no results," he added. "I haven't had a good run top-to-bottom yet. I feel like I can change that quickly. And in St. Moritz, I'm going to be ready for that race.
"Today it was tactics which just threw me off. It's not a good feeling to keep doing that. The downhill side of things is where I put the heavier price, but I've done well in super G in the past. But I'm looking forward to get it going again in St. Moritz."
Miller battled snow in and on his goggles. By the lower part of the course, he had extremely limited visibility. He had a top-10 top split, but was 28th on the bottom. The finish did drop him behind Eberharter in the overall hunt, but Miller has the opportunity to move back into the lead in Tuesday's night slalom in Schladming, which he won a year ago.
Fiala continued to chalk up strong finishes, narrowly missing his top-15 target, finishing 16th. "Boy, if I keep stringing off these PB's (personal bests), maybe I can win in St. Moritz," he joked in the finish. Fiala has had, by far, the best season of his career in both super G and downhill.
The finish kept the U.S. men in third behind Austria and Switzerland in the Nation's Cup hunt.
The men's speed team now heads to a private training camp before next Sunday's World Championship super G. The U.S. World Championship Team will be named later on Monday but will, of course, be led by defending World Champion Rahlves. Miller will join his slalom teammates, already in Schladming, for the spectacular Tuesday night race where he won a year ago.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP RESULTS
Men's Super G
Monday, Jan. 27
1. Hermann Maier, Austria, 1:20.48
2. Christoph Gruber, Austria, 1:20.59
3. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 1:20.63
4. Andreas Schifferer, Austria, 1:21.12
5. Hans Knauss, Austria, 1:21.19
13T.. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:22.17
16. Jake Fiala, Breckenridge, CO, 1:22.17
23. Daron Rahlves, Truckee, CA, 1:22.51
35. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY, 1:23.43
Scott Macartney (Redmond, WA) and Marco Sullivan (Squ