Val d'Isere, France, Dec. 7, 2001--Stephan Eberharter may have felt he wasn't skiing so well but the Austrian showed no real signs of rustiness Friday despite a nearly six-week layoff as he won the first super G of the season by four-hundredths of a second. U.S. skiers struggled with Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) the top racer finishing 24th.
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"It's super disappointing," Rahlves said. "We just weren't on top of it. I made three big mistakes tactically ... It was poor skiing."
Eberharter, a three-event racer who was No. 2 behind Hermann Maier in World Cup overall standings a year ago and expected to take over as Austria's leading skier with Maier out with a leg injury, marked "The Hermannator's" 29th birthday by winning in 1:26.53. Didier Cuche of Switzerland was runnerup in 1:26.57 with another Swiss, Silvano Beltrametti, third in 1:27.18 as the super G was a makeup from Beaver Creek, Colo.
"I wish Hermann a happy birthday," Eberharter said as his teammate recuperates from a broken leg suffered in late August, "but I'm still not dedicating my victory to him." Eberharter was secod in the opening race of the season, a giant slalom Oct. 28 in Soelden, Austria, and hasn't raced since; this was the seventh World Cup win of his career for the 1991 world SG champion.
For the U.S. skiers, Rahlves started slowly -- a full second behind Eberharter at the first split at the top -- and finished in 1:29.15. Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY) was 33rd in 1:30.30, less than .2 out of the points, while Chad Fleischer was 35th, Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) 45th and Scott Macartney (Redmond, WA), returning from aching knees that sidelined him most of last season, was 51st in the field of 74.
"We pretty much had a rough ride. The snow was grippy up top but slick on the ottom; it got glazed," according to Rahlves. "We've got another one tomorrow, so we'll be back after it."
The men, idle since two slaloms Nov. 25-26 in Aspen, have four consecutive days of racing in Val d'Isere. Saturday, they run the first downhill of the Cafe de Colombia season, Sunday's it's giant slalom, and Monday night they'll be in Madonna diCampiglio, Italy, for a slalom under the lights. The men's DH from Beaver Creek still has not been rescheduled.
CAFE DE COLOMBIA WORLD CUP
Val d'Isere, FRA - Dec. 7
Men's Super G
1. Stepha Eberharter, Austria, 1:26.53
2. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 1:26.57
3. Silvano Beltrametti, Switzerland, 1:27.18
4. Christoph Gruber, Austria, 1:27.46
5. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 1:27.79
24. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 1:29.15
33. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, N.Y., 1:30.30
35. Chad Fleischer, Vail, Colo., 1:30.43
45. Casey Puckett, Aspen, Colo., 1:30.76
51. Scott Macartney, Redmond, Wash., 1:32.04