BORMIO, Italy Jan. 11, 2003 (USSA)--Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), returning to the hill where he won two weeks earlier and then surviving a near-spill at the bottom of the run ("I vaporized this panel"), grabbed his third podium of the season Saturday and broke up an all-Austrian top-3. Stephan Eberharter, showing no signs of a knee injury from before Christmas, reclaimed the World Cup points lead with a sizzling run for his fourth downhill victory of the season.
Outdoor Life Network will televise coverage of the race Saturday at 4 p.m. EST, preceded by coverage of Miller's GS victory a week ago in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
With temperatures in the low teens for a race moved from Chamonix, France, because of poor snow conditions, Eberharter - who strained ligaments in his right knee during a crash in a giant slalom Dec. 8 in Val d'Isere, France—won in an unofficial 1:59.27. It was his sixth victory of the winter; he won the first three downhills of the season before the injury, which forced him to miss Val Gardena and the first DH in Bormio on Dec. 29, which Rahlves won.
Fellow Austrian Michael Walchhofer, the only other racer to crack the two-minute barrier, was second (1:59.75) and Rahlves was third (2:00.04) and moved into third place in the DH standings.
Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), who held the points lead for a week—the first U.S. man in 20 years to lead the World Cup, finished eighth and returned to second place in the points but he remains the giant slalom points leader. After 17 races, Eberharter has 655 points, Miller 610; Sunday, the men race slalom, adding to the drama—Eberharter seldom runs SL while Miller, who won a Europa Cup slalom at the start of the week and a World Cup slalom a year ago, mysteriously has not scored a point in three World Cup slaloms to date.
Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) was 21st and Jake Fiala (Frisco, CO) tied for 35th.
RAHLVES: "TALE OF TWO CITIES" ANALOGY
Sounding like the fabled lead paragraph from Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," (i.e., "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."), Rahlves said, "It was a run that was really good and then really bad in spots. I boot-topped a panel (clipped it with the top of his boots because he was so close) tighter than Bode does in slalom. I think my tip was a half-inch away from hitting it. My outside ski was six inches away from hitting it, my boots were locked together.
"I was going for a straight line at the bottom, and it's dark, and I hit a bump and that threw me right into the panel. I thought I almost straddled it but I pulled it off," he added. "But Eberharter ran a great race. It would've been tough to beat but second should've been mine. I lost six-tenths on the bottom.
"I skied the top really well, the middle solid, the next section good - I was second to the last split, then lost a little bit more. It's kind of bittersweet to come back to a hill you've won on, and I knew I could do it again. I was going for a repeat. I felt good; Willi (Wiltz, waxing technician) was it all the way—swe had two pairs of skis at the start and Willi got me the best skis. Everything was ready to go."
Rahlves was third at the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey downhill Dec. 7 at Beaver Creek, CO—the first time three U.S. men had been in the top 10 of a World Cup since 1972 in Kitzbuehel, Austria—and earned his third World Cup win two weeks ago. He headed back to Lake Tahoe for the New Year's holiday, did some skiing and snowboarding, and finished with a day of giant slalom training at Sugar Bowl Ski Area before returning to Europe.
"It's great any day you're on the podium; it's an awesome feeling," he continued. "You make a mistake, fight, bring it back, keep it going. You're bound to make mistakes in any type of race but you try to minimalize them and recover.
"It's awesome. I can't get over how much it is to ski here. A great powder day is hard to beat but a race day like today...man, Bormio is hard to mmatch. In the racing scene, this place is incredible—the turns, the jumps, the speed. I mean, right out of the start you're hauling; it's non-stop...that makes it so much fun...
"They did a lot of slipping, buffed it out, made the snow a lot harder. It was slicker in some spots, too, but the snow was ideal—it was smooth but it got some ripples in it, like freshly laid concrete with frost heaves in it, not smooth but not beaten-up, no holes after 20 guys. The hardness was awesome. Bormio did a fantastic job with the course prep."
MCBRIDE LAUDS MILLER, SULLIVAN,TOO
He paused for a second, then added, "If you don't bring you're 'A Game' and get after it, if you don't pin it, you don't take control, you haven't a chance. Give the mountain respect, but not too much. You have to be in control."
"It was a really good day," said DH/SG Head Coach John McBride. "Daron almost put it down at the end. He skied right through a gate; it probably would've taken down most people but he kept it going and had a solid run otherwise.
"That mistake, though, probably cost him second place. I don't know if he could've caught 'Speedy Gonzales' (Eberharter) but he certainly could've been second...
"And Bode and Marco skied well, too. Where I was, Bode skied top of the field and I know he's gonna end that no-points-in-slalom thing (Sunday). He's got some things working and he'll be 'there'...and Marco just got better and better all week, from the 50s on the first day of training to 31st (in Friday's training run) to 21st. He keeps stepping it up," McBride said.
After Sunday's slalom, the men race their traditional GS in Adelboden, Switzerland, followed by a double-downhill lineup plus slalom and combined Jan. 17-19 in Wengen.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Bormio, ITA - Jan. 11 (Relocated from Chamonix, FRA)
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 1:59.27
2. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 1:59.75
3. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 2:00.04
4. Klaus Kroell, Austria, 2:00.13
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 2:00.29
8. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 2:00.51
21. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 2:01.54
35T. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 2:02.61
World Cup Standings (17 races)
1. Eberharter, 655
2. Miller, 610
3. Didier Defago, Switzerland, 414
4. Cuche, 398
5. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 389
12. Rahlves, 265
37. Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, 112
41. Sullivan, 102
46. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 84
67T. Tom Rothrock, 39
75T. Fiala, 29
81T. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY, 24
115T. Dane Spencer, Boise, ID, 9
Downhill Standings (6 races)
1. Eberharter, 400
2. Walchhofer, 317
3. Rahlves, 261
4. Hannes Trinkl, Austria, 258
5. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 250
9. Miller, 169
20T. Sullivan, 68
42. Fiala 13