Kranjska Gora, Slovenia Dec. 21, 2001 (USSA)--Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) gave himself an early Christmas present Friday, hanging-up his fourth top-3 finish in six races as he was second behind Benjamin Raich of Austria in a World Cup giant slalom on an icy course in Kranjska Gora.
Outdoor Life Network will broadcast coverage of the GS Monday night at 9 EST.
"We're loving it," beamed slalom/GS Head Coach Jesse Hunt after Miller trimmed a tenth of a second off Raich's first-run lead but still had to settle for second place. Raich had more than a half-second lead in the first run and finished in 2:07.46 with Miller second in 2:07.88.
"Jail break" for the leaders
Raich and Miller, who stands second behind Austrian Stephan Eberharter (who was ninth) in the overall World Cup points, staged a "jail break" on the rest of the field, finishing well in front of the pack. Third place went to Swiss racer Didier Cuche, who was .82 behind Miller, nearly a second a half off Raich's time. Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY), the only other U.S. skier to get a second run, was 26th in 2:10.77.
"I skied a pretty good first run. I made a couple of little mistakes," Miller said, "but Raich realy killed it. I was five-tenths off and that's a lot of time to give to someone like him. Second run, I attacked it hard except i made a good mistake on the last pitch. It was more a matter of whether he'd make a bigger mistake but he skied a pretty good run. I'd rather ski the way I did today and get beat than ski a lousy run and win.
"It was pretty icy, and off and on the light was pretty tough, but the hill held up really well. I mean, I skied 29th on the second run and had the fastest time, so..."
Miller is coming back from tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament at the World Championships in February. He bypassed full reconstructive surgery during the preseason but underwent a "healing response" and was back on skis during the summer.
Hot streak since Thanksgiving
After placing fifth in the season-opening GS at Soelden, Austria, in October and squandering a podium opportunity in a slalom Nov. 25 at the Chevy Truck Aspen (Colo.) Winternational, he's been second in slalom Nov. 26 at Aspen, first in GS Dec. 9 at Val d'Isere, France, first in a night slalom Dec. 10 in Madonna diCampiglio, Italy, and second Friday. He also led the first run in another GS last Sunday in Alta Badia, Italy, only to ski off-course on his second run, and he was 16th Thursday in another giant slalom in Kranjska Gora.
"I'm skiing well. Alta Badia was tough. I felt that was a race built for me and I blew it. And I obviously didn't ski well Thursday, but it's been good," the Carrabassett Valley Academy grad said.
"Raich had a helluva first run and, really, Bode didn't have a clean run on either run. He made a big mistake in the first of his first run right before a compression and that was costly. That was where he lost his time to Raich," Hunt said. "And then he beat him on the second run but it wasn't enough.
Coach: Vonn's skiing well, too
"Bode had a really good run the middle of the course -- she skied beautifully through there and was right on the timing and flow of the course. He wasn't quite as strong on the bottom, though. The bottom pitch is kinda steep and he was going for it, no question, and he didn't ski it quite as cleanly.
"And Vonn did a great job on his run, really an outstanding run, but then went straight in a couple of places and created some problems on his second run. Still, another result for him, which is good."
The men race a slalom Saturday and then take a brief Christmas break, returning to Utah for the U.S. Ski Team Gold Cup Dec. 29-30 on the Olympic alpine venues in Park City -- GS on the 29th at Park City Mountain Resort and slalom Dec. 30 at Deer Valley Resort.
"It'll be fun to get some time on those hills," Miller said. "They should be good races."