February 27, 2005
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP Eugene Brcic)--Italy's Giorgio Rocca won a World Cup slalom Sunday in which Bode Miller crashed out of yet another race to further diminish his lead in the overall standings.
Austria's Benjamin Raich, Miller's main rival, was third, and is now just 31 points behind the American.
Rocca charged masterfully on the lower section of the course to finish in 1 minute, 34.95 seconds. Sweden's Andre Myhrer was a surprising second, 0.21 seconds behind and Raich was 0.25 seconds back.
``It's fantastico,'' said Rocca, who was third after the opening leg.
Rocca said there was little pressure on him because he is not in the running for any season-ending championships and ``did not have other objectives or priorities like some others have.''
The top American was Ted Ligety in 10th place. Finland's Kalle Palander missed a good chance for his first title of the season, leading after the first leg but finishing 12th.
Miller made another woeful showing in the slalom, straddling a gate at the top of the hill. It was the eighth slalom he had failed to finish this season, including one at this month's world championships. He was 14th after the opening leg.
``I had a bad weekend,'' said Miller, who also slid off the course in the giant slalom Saturday. ``I didn't score a point, but my confidence is not dented. I still have the speed races.''
Raich and Miller are easily the two best skiers on the circuit this year, and both had a win apiece in the slalom entering the race.
Miller last won in mid-December at Sestriere, Italy, and crashed out of the seven other races. Raich had never failed to finish a race all season. He also had three top-three finishes as well as a victory.
Raich, who turns 27 Monday, said he slowed after Miller's run to make sure of securing valuable points.
``I did take some speed off and that's why I finished where I did,'' Raich said. ``I went safe, but I was also still fast.''
Miller has 1,253 points and held a 191-point lead on Raich entering this weekend. But Raich collected 160 to move well within reach of the American's lead.
Miller must rediscover his form from early in the season in the upcoming speed races if he is to become the first American to win the overall title in 22 years. Phil Mahre, the only American to have won it, claimed the overall title in three consecutive years from 1981.
``Bode is good in the speed events and he is stronger than me now, but if you give me a chance I will catch it,'' Raich said.
``You cannot think about the big picture while you're skiing,'' he added. ``I don't think about it. I don't think beyond a race.''
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press