SOELDEN, Austria Oct. 26, 2003 (AP)--Bode Miller began his bid to become the World Cup overall champion Sunday by winning the season-opening giant slalom.
Miller, who aims to dethrone champion Stephan Eberharter, enjoyed a big victory margin of 1.12 seconds. The American covered the steep and twisting course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 9.58 seconds.
Frederic Covili was second in 2:10.70, followed by French countryman Joel Chenal in 2:10.76. Austrian star Hermann Maier finished 16th.
``It's tough to talk about the overall after just one race,'' said Miller, runner-up to Eberharter in the title race last year. ``It's my goal but it's still a long way away.''
Eberharter, the Olympic giant slalom champion, was sixth after the opening leg but dropped to eighth after the second run.
``It's an OK result considering I had a fever a couple of days ago and I'm not feeling great,'' he said. ``I wasn't feeling fit enough. This gives me confidence for the speed events.''
American Erik Schlopy, the world championship bronze medalist, tumbled after both skis broke but was not hurt.
Teammate Daron Rahlves, who will be racing the giant slalom in addition to speed events, just missed qualifying among the top 30, finishing 32nd. He had been bedridden for two days with a bad cold.
``There was no strength left in my legs,'' Rahlves said
The course was set much like a speed event, with several skiers comparing the layout to that of a super giant slalom, with a direct line down the hill.
``It was a great set but I was really surprised,'' Miller said. ``It's not like anything we usually see on this hill. In the soft snow it might have been easier but it was really hard, bumpy and aggressive.''
Maier was handicapped by an inflamed right knee and a high start number after his long injury absence.
The Austrian missed almost two seasons after a 2001 motorcycle accident that nearly cost him a leg. He competed in a handful of races late last season and won a super giant slalom last January.
``This gives me confidence,'' Maier said. ``It's only the start.''
Five Austrians made the top 10 but none the top four.
``I am not surprised to see the French do so well. They are one of the fittest teams,'' Miller said. ``But the Austrians are too good a team not to put someone on the podium.''
The women's season opened Saturday, with Martina Ertl of Germany winning the giant slalom.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press