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Bode Miller wins Val d'Isere giant slalom, holds runaway World Cup lead

Bode Miller wins Val d’Isere giant slalom, holds runaway World Cup leadBode Miller continued his incredible assault on the record books today, winning the giant slalom at Val d’Isere with what he called “mature tactics.” Miller has won 630 points on the World Cup this year, one of the fastest starts in recent memory.

“He’s testing the magnificent task of victories,” said Jean Claude Killy, this French town’s favorite son. “When you’re winning, you want to win more.” Killy says that he hopes Miller’s dominance and personality helps the sport in the U.S. the way Lance Armstrong helped cycling. (A transcript of Ski Racing’s interview with Killy will appear here later this week.)

After a cautious first run, Miller attacked the hill in the gathering gloom of the afternoon, beating veterans Lasse Kjus of Norway and Hermann Maier of Austria. Miller’s 17th victory came on the same hill where he won his first, a giant slalom back in 2001.

“I wanted to see where I stood after the first run, and then decide how much I had to push on the second run,” said Miller after the race. “But it was really tough. Even halfway down it was hard for me to continue and not let it go 100 percent.”

Miller said that starting fourth on the first run — on a hill he had mastered in previous outings — left him tempted to ski aggressively, but he forced himself to save the risk-taking for when it was necessary.

On the second run, Austrians Christoph Gruber and Benjamin Raich made big mistakes and blew the lead they’d built up over Miller in the morning. Hermann Maier, resurgent again in giant slalom this year, had the fastest first run, but was slow right from the beginning in the afternoon.

“I’m very pleased by my acheivements in GS,” said Maier, who nearly lost a leg in a 2001 motorcycle accident. “My results in the last two weeks have been the best since my comeback.” Maier won the overall World Cup title last year largely on the strength of his super G and downhill results.

It’s still early, but Miller is now everyone’s favorite for the overall title. The American attacked the second run course, running a tight line and occasionally kicking up a snowspray as he moderated his own speed with his some of his signature tricks.

Few Americans around to witness Miller’s feats, but plenty of French kids
Miller said he was glad to be back in France, where he has begun living in his RV again, and where he says the likes the spirit of the fans. All weekend he was greeted in the finish area by gaggles of French schoolchildren — many wearing uniforms from nearby club teams like Tignes and Les Gets — who chanted his name over and over.

Several times during the race, French policemen (the “Gendarmerie”) had to swoop down upon the media corral in the finish area and sweep out the children that had jumped the barriers in search of Miller’s autograph.

Jake Sereno, Miller’s childhood friend and the driver of his RV during most of the World Cup season in Europe, is selling yellow Bode Miller baseball caps for 15 Euro a piece in an effort to cash in on some of the “Bode-mania.” This week, a freelance film producer has begun gathering footage for “Bode on the Bus,” a component of the Outdoor Life Network’s upcoming ski coverage.

Following the race, Miller was awarded his own weight in wine. Race organizers weighed him in a massive scale, and stacked the other side of the scales with crates of wine from the Savoy region. “How much do you weigh,” asked the master of ceremonies, as the crowd pushed in to watch. “About 97 kilos,” said Miller, who made sure to bring his skis and boots with him onto the scale so he could get an extra bottle or two. “A few years ago they did the same thing, and I stood up too fast and some of the bottles broke,” he said.

Giant slalom rewarded the aggressive
The race-day weather was clear and cold, and the race hill was cast in shadows for most of the afternoon, making it hard for athletes to see the cross-ruts and natural terrain. Because of the limited snow cover in the Alps this December, the rugged terrain of the Val d’Isere course was accentuated all the more.

Many of the Americans struggled. Jimmy Cochran was having a sweet first run when a mistake near the bottom of the course kept him from qualifying. Erik Schlopy “over-skied” a turn coming out of the Compression section of the hill, and was surprised to ski off course. But Dane Spencer was super-aggressive, and managed 21st even with some slower splits. And Daron Rahlves, who is salivating to steal the spotlight from his teammate Miller, managed a strong 15th with the seventh-fastest second run.

One of the most exciting runs of the day came out of nowhere when a young Italian named Mirko Deflorian, who started the day in the 58th start position, put it all on the line for the race of his life. After finishing the first run with the 24th-best time, Deflorian slaughtered the second-run course, set by his own coach, Severino Bottero. Deflorian’s second-run time was the fastest of the day — even a half-second faster than Miller’s.

“One of the most important things in giant slalom is level of intensity, or aggression, or urgency,” said Miller when asked for his perspective on the depth and ambition of the Italian men’s giant slalom team. “That’s a contagious thing. It doesn’t have to do with anything technical or tactical or anything really. It’s just a mindset.”

Miller says he’ll ditch the cautious tactics and take that Italian mindset into tomorrow night’s slalom at Sestriere — the site of the slalom in the 2006 Olympics. “I’m pretty much thinking right now that I’ll go hard first run,” said Miller, before driving over the pass for the Italian race. “Slalom is a lot more fun for me if I go out with the intention of boot-topping every gate and trying to win the first run by a second and a half … I’m going to go ahead and do that.”

World Cup

Men’s Giant Slalom
Val d’Isere, France
Dec. 12, 2004

1. Bode Miller, USA 2:20.66
2. Lasse Kjus, NOR 2:20.95
3. Hermann Maier, AUT 2:20.99
4. Davide Simoncelli, ITA 2:21.51
5. Mirko Deflorian, ITA 2:21.52
6. Kalle Palander, FIN 2:21.54
7. Didier Defago, SUI 2:21.78
8. Joel Chenal, FRA 2:21.54
9. Didier Cuche, SUI 2:22.01
10. Stephan Goergl, AUT 2:22.05
11. Niklas Rainer, SWE 2:22.06
11. Thomas Grandi, CAN 2:22.06
13. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA 2:22.10
14. Fredrik Nyberg, SWE 2:22.11
15. Daron Rahlves, USA 2:22.13
16. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 2:22.27
17. Alberto Schieppati, ITA 2:22.30
18. Rainer Schoenfelder, AUT 2:22.35
19. Peter Fill, ITA 2:22.39
20. Frederic Covili, FRA 2:22.49
21. Dane Spencer, USA 2:22.91
22. Jean-Philippe Roy, FRA 2:22.99
23. Bjarne Solbakken, NOR 2:23.07
24. Bruno Kernen, SUI 2:23.09
25. Marco Buechel, LIE 2:23.16
26. Andreas Schifferer, AUT 2:24.46
27. Christoph Gruber, AUT 2:26.66
28. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:27.27
29. Ales Gorza, SLO 2:28.20
other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: James Cochran, Jake Zamansky, USA; Francois Bourque, CAN.
DNF 1st: Erik Schlopy, USA

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

equipment
Men’s GS, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 12, 2004
Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Kjus, Dynasta
r/Atomic/Look
3 Maier, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4 Simoncelli, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
5 DeFlorian, Dynastar/Lange/Look
6 Palander, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7 Defago, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
8 Chenal, Dynastar/Lange/Look
9 Cuche, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10 Goergl, Fischer/Lange/Fischer

Men’s GS at Val d’Isere, 12/12, It is the ninth race of the men’s 35 race (plus two combined) World Cup schedule. … It is the third of eight schduled GS’s. … First three are within three tenths, first six the same second. … Top 3 skiers have recorded 172 World Cup podium results.

It is the 17th career World Cup win for Bode Miller, … his eighth in GS, … It is his fifth win of the season. … It is the 148th U.S. World Cup win. … Miller is one win from tying Tamara McKinney for second in Cup wins on the all-time U.S. list. … It is Miller’s second win at Val d’Isere as he also took the GS 12/9/2001. … Phil Mahre is the other American to win GS at Val d’Isere, and also won two combined events based at least in part at Val d’Isere. … AJ Kitt won a DH there in ’91. … No other American has ever won more than three races before the end of December.

It is the 59th career podium for Lasse Kjus, … His tenth in GS. … It is his second podium of the season, both in GS. … It is his fourth Val d’Isere podium including SG in ’95, DH & SG in ’98.

It is the 82nd career podium for Hermann Maier. … His 25th in GS. … His fourth at Val d’Isere (with the other three all being wins (SG ’98, DH & GS 2000). … It is his third podium of the season without a win. …

A magnificent performance by fifth place finisher Italian Mirko DeFlorian from the 58th start. … It is just his second scoring result, the other coming 2/28/04 at Kranjska Gora… He won two Europa Cup giant slaloms earlier this month in Finland.

It is the 21st top 11 placing for Thomas Grandi. … It is his third result of the season, all in GS. … It is the first GS result for Daron Rahlves this season. … It is his second best GS result ever behind a 12th at Adelboden 2/7/04. … It is the 18th GS scoring result for Dane Spencer’s career, … his third of the season. … It is the 12th career scoring finish for Jean-Philppe Roy and his third in Val d’Isere. … It is his first scoring result of the season.

Miller extends his lead in the overall standings to 630-339 for Hermann Maier. … He leads the GS standings 200-180 over Lasse Kjus. … Daron Rahlves sits sixth in the overall at 236. … Erik Schlopy, a first run DNF, is the second ranked U.S. skier in GS ranked 15th with 54pts. … The Austrian men lead the Nations Cup 2068-1015 for the U.S. … The Swiss men are third at 755 with Italy at 732.

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