DARON RAHLVES AND BODE MILLER GO 1-2 AT BIRDS OF PREY DOWNHILL


DARON RAHLVES AND BODE MILLER GO 1-2 AT BIRDS OF PREY DOWNHILLDaron Rahlves dazzled the home crowd and Bode Miller was right behind as the potent American tandem placed 1-2 in the Birds of Prey downhill at Beaver Creek, Colorado, on Friday.

NBC will televise coverage of the race Saturday at 3 p.m. ET

It was a reversal of the top-two positions from last year’s Birds of Prey downhill. “It’s nice to give Bode a little payback,” joked Rahlves after the race.

Rahlves, who has now won two of the last three Birds of Prey downhills, scorched down the shortened Bernhard Russi-designed course in 1 minute, 13.37 seconds, with defending overall champ Miller second in 1:13.64.

Bill Marolt, the CEO of the United States Ski Team, was beaming with pride in the finish area. “It’s obviously a huge day,” he said. “To go one-two in this race is a big statement.”

The day was Rahlves’ right from the start. “I was excited to ski today, but I wasn’t overly confident I was going to take Daron down,” Miller said. “I know he has a lot of aggression pent up from last year here, and just his skiing career. He just likes to take it out on this hill. I was aware he was going to be tough to beat today.”

Reigning World Cup downhill champion Mickey Walchhofer of Austria said he suspected Rahlves wanted to unseat Miller from the number-one position on the U.S. Ski Team’s speed squad — a position that Miller stole last year.

“In training, Bode was always faster than Daron, and it was not so easy for him,” said Walchhofer. “Now it’s one year later and he saw he can just beat Bode this year…It’s great for the ski sport. It’s great for you, the media. And I think it’s good for us all.”

Walchhofer and Rahlves are in a duel for the downhill title this season.

Rahlves recently said that he will probably retire at the end of the season.

Austrian Johann Grugger, 23, rounded out the podium with a time of 1:13.71, with countryman Fritz Strobl fourth.

Grugger is a future star of the Austrian ski team. Last year he won World Cup downhills at Bormio and Chamonix, and finished 10th in the overall World Cup standings at the end of the year.

Fog and winds forced organizers to drop the normal downhill start to just below the so-called Brink – where the course begins its steep drop. A beaming Rahlves noted, ‘I said last night, ‘If they drop the start, it’s mine.’ ‘

It was the 10th career win for Rahlves, and the results boosted both him and Miller back into the race for the season’s overall championship. Rahlves was fifth in Thursday’s super G, but Miller had struggled in his three previous races, DNFing Thursday and struggling in Lake Louise speed races.

Last season, Miller won the Birds of Prey downhill, with Rahlves second, in a historic American effort that fell on the same day women’s star Lindsey Kildow won a Lake Louise women’s downhill.

‘Finally, we reversed the order’ Rahlves said. ‘[Miller] gave me some scary moments at the end’ before falling tenths of a second short.

Still, Miller seemed elated about his skiing. “Down the pitch was some of the best skiing I’ve probably ever done,” he said. “I mean I linked together five or six turns that were just ridiculous.”

The race may have been won in the air. While Rahlves was nearly flawless off the course’s many jumps and terrain, Miller had a few small bobbles that ultimately cost him the win. “The two main jumps, Screech Owl and Golden Eagle, were huge,” Miller said. “I got rotated off the Harrier jump, and that cost me. Daron always makes up time on the bottom, but I would have been closer, much closer if I hadn’t done that stuff.”

Canadian Erik Guay continued his stellar racing, finishing sixth. Defending downhill champ Michael Walchhofer of Austria was 10th, and Hermann Maier skied into 19th, tied with Benni Raich. American Steve Nyman cracked the points again, this time in 23rd.

Organizers dodged a bullet during the night when a snowstorm, which had been predicted to leave up to 30 inches of snow, never arrived. Light snow began falling at about 7 a.m. but fog posed a bigger problem. Race officials had to call numerous course holds, waiting for the clouds to blow off the course and then sending racers.

Racing continues with a giant slalom Saturday (11 a.m. start) and slalom Sunday. Miller’s take on his chances in the GS tomorrow? “I’m going to be tough to beat tomorrow,” he stated.

Lowered start helped level the playing field
It took Rahlves 1 minute 13.37 seconds to finish the course this year, as opposed to the 1:39.76 Miller won with last season.

What was missing was nothing but flats. The 25-second section called the Flyway always messed with Rahlves, putting him at a disadvantage right when the “real downhill” began.

The alternate start used on Friday has an elevation of 3,401 meters. The original start is at 3,488. That’s 25 seconds of tucking with only an 87-meter drop. For comparison’s sake, the rest of the downhill was 73 seconds in a 675-meter drop.

Not the first time
It wasn’t the first time that these two Americans have shared the top steps of the podium. Or the second, or even the the third. Last year they tied for the win in the Lenzerheide super G, and went one-two in both the World Championship downhill in Bormio and, of course, the Birds of Prey downhill.

Big smiles for Rahlves
Even as Miller has been the most successful American skier of the last few season, Rahlves has been the most popular within the ski racing community.

It made for an emotional day, especially after Rahlves gave a sportsmanlike speech from the top of the podium.

“Daron is a classy kid. He’s somebody who you just like from the get-go,” said Marolt. “He’s solid, he’s grounded, he’s smart. He’s a lot of things, but the best thing about him is he’s humble. That’s why people like him.”

Marolt choked up a little speaking of Rahlves. “He’s a great champion. So it was good…He’s a good role model, and somebody who all of us like a lot, as you can tell.”

The Rahlves parents were in the finish area too.

“This has got to be one of the top,” said Rahlves’s father, Dennis. “He’s taken his successes, and he’s had his not-so successes too, and he’s taken them all with a small.”

“You don’t have to tell anyone how good you are, you just show them how good you are,” said Rahlves’s mother, Sally. “That’s what he’s done. He doesn’t boast or brag. He just gets out there and does it. And he did it today!”

What to watch for tomorrow, December 3, 2005
Tomorrow’s race in Beaver Creek is the giant slalom. It starts near what is known as the Pumphouse section of the downhill track and finishes in the same arena as the rest of the Beaver Creek races.

Last year, Lasse Kjus of Norway was the surprise winner of the giant slalom event held here because Park City had chosen not to host races.

While the men are racing giant slalom, the women will be competin
g in the second of two downhills up in Lake Louise, Alberta. Click here to read about the first of those downhills, which Elena Fanchini of Italy won today.

Men’s Downhill
Beaver Creek, Colo.,
Dec. 2, 2005

1. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:13.37
2. Bode Miller, USA 1:13.64
3. Johan Grugger, AUT 1:13.71
4. Fritz Strobl, AUT 1:14.34
5. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:14.43
6. Erik Guay, CAN 1:14.46
7. Peter Fill, ITA 1:14.48
8. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 1:14.52
9. Didier Cuche, SUI 1:14.56
10. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:14.59
11. Christoph Gruber, AUT 1:14.60
12. Marco Buechel, LIE 1:14.69
13. Francois Bourque, CAN 1:14.81
14. Bjarne Solbakken, NOR 1:14.86
15. Yannick Bertrand, FRA 1:15.03
16. Alessandro Fattori, ITA 1:15.06
17. Tobias Gruenenfelder, SUI 1:15.10
18. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:15.12
19. Hermann Maier, AUT 1:15.23
19. Benjamin Raich, AUT 1:15.23
21. Antoine Deneriaz, FRA 1:15.24
22. Andreas Buder, AUT 1:15.27
23. Steven Nyman, USA 1:15.28
24. Nicolas Burtin, FRA 1:15.30
24. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 1:15.30
26. Didier Defago, SUI 1:15.33
27. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 1:15.38
28. Lasse Kjus, NOR 1:15.39
28. Patrick Jaerbyn, SWE 1:15.39
30. Stefan Thenei, ITA 1:15.40
Other North Americans:
41. Christopher Beckmann, USA 1:15.99
42. Kevin Francis, USA 1:16.14
43. John Kucera, CAN 1:16.28
45. Justin Johnson, USA 1:16.36
DNF: Marco Sullivan, Scott Macartney, USA; Manuel Osborne, Jeff Hume, CAN.

THE SCOOP
By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s downhill, Beaver Creek, Colo., Dec. 2, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Grugger, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
4. Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
5. Kernen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
6. Guay, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7. Fill, Dynastar/Lange/Look
8. Aamodt, Dynastar/Lange/Tyrolia
9. Cuche, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10. Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

World Cup, men’s downhill, Beaver Creek, Colo., Dec. 2, 2005
Shortened course due to weather. … It is the sixth race of the World Cup season, the fifth race the men’s 34 race, 4 combined schedule. … It is the second of 10 scheduled downhills. … It is the second of a four-race set at Beaver Creek, one race in each of the four disciplines.

It is the 10th career World Cup win for Daron Rahlves. … 7th in DH. … He also won in Beaver Creek in DH Dec. 5, 2003 … It is the 153rd U.S. win. … Rahlves moves into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time U.S. World Cup win list behind Phil Mahre (27), Bode Miller (19) and Tamara McKinney (18). … It is the third U.S. win at Beaver Creek in three seasons. … It is the second time Rahlves and Miller have gone 1-2 in DH at Beaver Creek, the other last season with Miller winning. … It is the third scoring result of the season for Rahlves, all of them top-five finishes.

It is the 41st career World Cup podium for Bode Miller. … His sixth in DH and all of those since November 2004. … It is his fourth score of the season, and his second runner-up finish, the first coming at Soleden in GS 10/23.

It is the fifth career podium for Johan Grugger, all of them in DH. … It is his first podium of the season in four scoring finishes.

It is the sixth time Erik Guay has finished in the top six of a World Cup race. … the second time this season. … He was second in the SG Dec. 1. … It is the 13th career scoring result for Francois Bourque. … His fourth of the season. … It is the fourth career scoring finish for Steve Nyman, his third of the season.

Aksel Svindal (tie 24th in race) remains the World Cup overall leader, 221 points to 208 for Fritz Strobl (4th). … Rahlves moves into third with 205. … Strobl maintains the DH standings lead with 150 points over Kjetil Aamodt (finished 8th) with 112. … Rahlves with 100 sits third.

Just the top four are within the same second. … But the top 26 are within two seconds.

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