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BORMIO: DARON RAHLVES WINS TOUGH DOWNHILL; HANS GRUGGER INJURED

BORMIO: DARON RAHLVES WINS TOUGH DOWNHILL; HANS GRUGGER INJUREDDaron Rahlves won the Bormio downhill Thursday, his second downhill World Cup win this season and the eighth of his career.

The victory marks a major step toward fulfilling the No. 1 goal Rahlves has set for himself in what is probably his final season: winning the downhill discipline title.

The Bormio podium consisted of Rahlves, Austria’s Fritz Strobl and Toby Gruenenfelder of Switzerland.

‘I came here on a mission’ Rahlves told Austrian broadcaster ORF. ‘I was super excited. It’s a real downhill, like Beaver Creek and Kitzbuehel. … It’s incredible to win on a day like this, when it’s fair across the board, and wearing number 30 is no problem.’

Conditions were clear and sunny, and the race start was delayed because of a forerunner’s crash that needed helicopter evacuation. ‘I expected to get to the start around racer 15, and I got there and three was in the gate’ said Rahlves. ‘So I took a little nap.’

Rahlves overcame a slight bobble at the top of the difficult track to post the fastest time, 0.32 hundredths faster than Strobl.

It was the eighth downhill World Cup win for Rahlves, who is the winningest downhiller in U.S. Ski Team history.

Rahlves won both training runs on the slope, proving once again that he rises to the occasion when the courses are difficult. He also won Bormio on the same date (Dec. 29) in 2002.

The friendly Californian’s other win this season came at Beaver Creek.

While Rahlves was winning the race, the American women were skiing solidly in the slalom at Lienz, Austria.

Bode Miller, racing with a fat lip after crashing hard in the second training run, started 31st and finished ninth. It is the same downhill track that he nearly completed on one ski last year during the downhill portion of the combined at the 2005 alpine World Championships.

Among other Americans, 2002 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year Steve Nyman was 26th, Marco Sullivan 36th and Scott Macartney 41st. Justin Johnson did not finish.

Bormio is off the beaten track, a standalone race on the World Cup calendar. The downhill here is considered one of the toughest on the circuit, with big jumps, gliding sections, tricky sidehills. It takes nearly two minutes to complete.

Weird luck continued to dog the Swiss team, as Gruenenfelder blew a potential winning run by crashing on the course’s final jump. Gruenenfelder slid through the finish with both skis on, and still managed to finish 0.01 seconds ahead of downhill World Cup champion Michael Walchhofer of Austria and only 0.03 seconds behind Olympic downhill champion Strobl.

Hans Grugger of Austria, running 24th, had one of the season’s ugliest crashes so far, doing the splits just before a bump and bouncing face first into the ground. He slid to a stop with blood streaming from his mouth and laid on the his back writhing in pain, clutching his right upper leg.

Grugger, who won Bormio last season (and Chamonix), had almost certainly clinched one of his team’s coveted Olympic start positions in at least one of the speed events, having won the Val Gardena super G and finished on the podium in two downhills – Beaver Creek and Val d’Isere.

Last year, the mountain was host to the alpine World Championships. At the downhill there, Miller and Rahlves finished first and second. It was one of the best days in American speed-event history, coming during a season that was full of them (like Dec. 3, 2004 and and March 11, 2005.

Men’s downhill
Bormio, Italy
Dec. 29, 2005

1. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:57.68
2. Fritz Strobl, AUT 1:58.00
3. Tobias Gruenenfelder, SUI 1:58.03
4. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:58.04
5. Marco Buechel, LIE 1:58.19
6. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:58.25
7. Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin, FRA 1:58.34
8. Didier Defago, SUI 1:58.35
9. Bode Miller, USA 1:58.58
10. Klaus Kroell, AUT 1:58.63
11. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:58.66
12. Christoph Gruber, AUT 1:58.86
13. Hermann Maier, AUT 1:58.87
14. Francois Bourque, CAN 1:59.16
15. Benjamin Raich, AUT 1:59.20
16. Erik Guay, CAN 1:59.22
16. Yannick Bertrand, FRA 1:59.22
18. Manuel Osborne-Paradis, CAN 1:59.27
19. Peter Fill, ITA 1:59.30
20. Antoine Deneriaz, FRA 1:59.36
21. Hannes Reichelt, AUT 1:59.42
22. Didier Cuche, SUI 1:59.47
23. Werner Heel, ITA 1:59.49
24. Kurt Sulzenbacher, ITA 1:59.51
25. Stefan Thanei, ITA 1:59.65
26. Steven Nyman, USA 1:59.70
27. Roland Fischnaller, ITA 1:59.73
28. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 1:59.85
29. Andreas Schifferer, AUT 1:59.99
30. Patrick Staudacher, ITA 2:00.29
Other North Americans:
31. John Kucera, CAN 2:00.31
36. Marco Sullivan, USA 2:01.04
41. Scott Macartney, USA 2:01.56
DNF: Justin Johnson, USA.

THE SCOOP
By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s DH, Bormio, Dec. 29, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3. Gruenenfelder, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon 4. Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 5. Buechel, Head/Lange/Tyrolia 6. Ghedina, Fischer /Lange/Fischer 7. Dalcin, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon 8. Defago, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol 9. Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 10. Kroell, Head/Lange/Tyrolia

Men’s downhill, Bormio, Italy, Dec. 28, 2005. …. It is the 16th event of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … It is the fifth of 10 scheduled downhills. … It is the 15th World Cup DH held at Bormio, the first in 1993.

It is the 11th career win for Daron Rahlves, (8 in DH, 3 in SG). … It is the 157th U.S. World Cup win. … It is the second win for Rahlves this season (Beaver Creek DH Dec. 2). … And the fifth U.S. win of the season. … It is the second win in DH at Bormio for Rahlves, who won Dec. 29, 2002, as well. … He was third in 2003 and sixth last season. … Rahlves joins Luc Alphand, (1995 and ’96), Hermann Maier (’97 and ’98) and Hannes Trinkl (’93 and 2000) as a two-time winner in DH at Bormio. … No one has more than two wins.

It is the 29th career podium for Fritz Strobl. … The 23rd in DH. … It is his seventh podium at Bormio, a win in DH in 2001, a third last season and five second-place finishes.

It is the third career podium for Tobias Gruenenfelder, the first in DH after two SG third-place results from Garmisch (2003 and 2004). … His best result previously this season had been 10th (SG Beaver Creek Dec. 1).

It is the eighth top-10 result for Bode Miller this season. … His best result in a DH at Bormio is fifth on Dec. 29, 2002. … It is the ninth score of the season for Francois Bourque. … Six of them 14th or better. … It is the ninth scoring result of the season for Erik Guay and his best in three career results at Bormio (20th twice). … It is the sixth career scoring result for Steven Nyman. … And fifth this season. … John Kucera was two-hundredths away from scoring.

Rahlves jumps over three skiers to claim the lead in the World Cup overall standings 489-471 over Miller. … Michael Walchhofer (fourth in race) is third at 470 and Aksel Svindal (did not race) is fourth at 450. … At the midpoint in the season, Strobl controls the DH standings 355-292 over Walchhofer. … Marco Buechel (fifth in race) is third at 251. … Rahlves sits fourth at 230, Miller seventh at 186 and Guay ninth at 165. … Winning margin is .32 of a second. … To
p 11 are within the same second. … Top 25 within two seconds.

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