Lake Louise, Alberta, Nov. 25, 2000--A day after he'd told reporters his favorite event was giant slalom, StefanEberharter of Austria overcame a devilish tailwind Saturday at Lake Louise Ski Area, then nailed the bottom of thecourse and won the first World Cup downhill of the season. Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO) led three U.S. skiers into the top25, finishing fifth after surviving a near-spill in the final run to the finish.
Eberharter, the gold medalist in super-G and combined at the '91 World Championships and giant slalom silvermedalist at the '98 Olympics, raced under an overcast sky was timed in 1:40.79. Second place went to Swiss racerSilvano Beltrametti, who had won the first training run Wednesday, with Lasse Kjus of Norway third. Defending WorldCup DH champ Hermann Maier also caught an edge at the bottom and was 15th.
Fleischer, starting 30th as he returns from a rotator cuff injury that ended his '00 season last December, ate-up ground atthe bottom and finished in 1:41.34. He caught his right ski's inner edge in the final tuck - at almost the same spot asMaier, but righted himself and finished in 1:41.34. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) was 21st in 1:42.24 with ChrisPuckett (Boulder, CO) tied 23rd in 1:42.38. Jake Fiala (Breckenridge, CO) finished 40th with Brett Fischer (Winter Park,CO) 47th in his World Cup debut.
"I was just flying," Fleischer said, giving credit to waxing wizard Edi Waldburger for his outstanding skis and to NorwegianCoach Atle Skardaal who gave him a tip about the bottom of the run. "I was kinda joking around, but I said, 'You got anypointers for me? He said, 'Just let 'em go down the hill. No matter what your line is, just keep the ski arcing and goingdown the hill.' I did that but my skis also were really fast today. I felt like they were pulling me along and I was trying tokeep up with them."
He added, "The only place I made a mistake - I probably lost two-tenths, at least, or three - was this flat at thebottom. I tried to hold my tuck off the bottom. I've been really fast down here and I just lost my focus because when Icame around that corner the only thought in my mind was to win the bottom, because I knew if I won the bottom thatwould bump up another couple of places...
"It was close, man, because when you're going 75, 80 miles an hour right there and when the shovel of your ski gets upand catches the wind, it's like sticking an arm that's six feet long out a car window...like throwing a parachute up for twoseconds and then you're down again; it doesn't look like anything, but in ski racing it's everything..."
"When I hit that finish line," Fleischer said, "I knew I'd made it. I knew I was fast. I had fast skis and I stayed over 'em. I justlet 'em run..."
Rahlves said he was happy to be racing and looked to do better Sunday in the super G. A year ago, he was 15th inthe downhill at Lake Louise and came back the next day to finish eighth in super G.
"It's pretty much a struggle in that middle section," he said. "I was going a lot faster in certain sections than in training ...It's fun to race, though, get that feeling back and just get after it..."
Puckett, greeted at the finish by his wife Wendy and month-old son, Cole, said Fleischer gave him an outstandingcourse report that took him through some tough spots.
"I knew Chad had gotten fifth and I was ahead of him in training Friday, so that gave me the confidence. ...I just trustedwhat he said," Puckett explained, "and knew if he was that good that I should be able to punch in there, too. It was likehe said - a little faster, some pretty sharp holes on a couple gates where I almost fell. ...I knew the part I own on thebottom was still there, and I have the fastest skis in the world - these Volkls are fast! - so I just laid 'em flat and kept tryingto make-up time...and I did it."
"Today was Race Day and I'm glad I got the experience," said Fischer - the reigning Nor Am downhill champion. "I triedto rise to the ooccasion...got bounced around a little bit, but made it down okay. I was pushing - gotta go on the edge.That's what everyone tells me, anyway: 'If you're not close to the nets you're going too slow.'"
The men conclude their weekend in the Canadian Rockies with a super-G before heading to the Ernst&Young Birds ofPrey races at Beaver Creek, Colo. They'll swap places - Colorado and Canada - with the U.S. women, whocompleted two days of racing Saturday and will run two downhills and super G at Lake Louise from Thursday throughSaturday.
CAFE de COLOMBIA WORLD CUP LAKE LOUISE, ALB - Nov. 25 Men's Downhill
1. Stefan Eberharter, Austria, 1:40.79 2. Silvano Beltrametti, Switzerland, 1:41.03 3. Lasse Kjus, Norway, 1:41.21 4. Josef Strobl, Austria, 1:41.33 5. Chad Fleischer, Vail, Colo., 1:41.34 6. Andreas Schifferer, Austria, 1:41.38 7. Hans Knauss, Austria, 1:41.52 8. Maz Ruaffer, Germany, 1:41.60 9. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 1:41.61 10. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 1:41.65 11. Didier Defago, Switzerland, 1:41.70 12. Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin, France, 1:41.82 13. Fredrik Nyberg, Sweden, 1:41.90 14. Audun Groenvold, Norway, 1:41.93 15. Hermann Maier, Austria, 1:42.01 16. Paul Accola, Switzerland, 1:42.05 17. Kenneth Sivertsen, Norway, 1:42.06 18. Bruno Kernen, Switzerland, 1:42.10 19. Werner Franz, Austria, 1:42.17 20. Claude Cretier, France, 1:42.18 21. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 1:42.24 22. Franco Cavegn, Switzerland, 1:42.28 23. (tie) Chris Puckett, Boulder, Colo., and Christoph Gruber, Austria, 1:42.38 each 25. Alessandro Fattori, Italy, 1:42.42 26. Marco Buechel, Liechtenstein, 1:42.46 27. Luca Cattaneo, Italy, 1:42.59 28. (tie) Ed Podivinsky, Canada, and Ivan Bormolini, Italy, 1:42.62 each 30. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 1:42.71