German Max Rauffer wins gusty Val Gardena downhill


German Max Rauffer wins gusty Val Gardena downhillMax Rauffer of Germany won the 45th running of the Val Gardena downhill today after organizers delayed the race and then lowered the start because of extremely windy conditions.

“I am purely amazed and speechless, and can’t put my feelings into words,” said Rauffer, who is the first German to win a downhill at Val Gardena since Berni Huber took first place in 1990.

Juerg Gruenenfelder of Switzerland finished second and Johann Grugger of Austria, running 34th, finished a surprise third, bumping Fritz Strobl of Austria off of the podium. Americans Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves finished tied for 14th.

Rahlves is looking to get himself into the hunt for the downhill discipline title, but he was held in the start for more than ten minutes waiting for a break in the wind, which was bending the paneled gates back up the hill towards him.

“It was getting to be a little funny after a little while,” said Rahlves about the delay. “You can’t maintain that level of concentration. I was screwing around, talking to [Didier] Cuche up there in the start, and he said ‘I better pole hard because you might pass me on the way down.’ It was a lot of wind. Not a very fair day. A fluky kind of deal. You see some guys really fast, some guys really slow. A mix.’

Miller said that after pushing out of the start and dropping into his tuck, the wind slowed him enough that he considered standing up and pushing some more.

Standout performances for some North Americans…
Bryon Friedman of the United States finished seventh, despite several small slip-ups. “It was sweet,” he said. “With the wind, it was kind of a crapshoot but I had the wind on my side and I tied my personal best, and coming out of a hospital bed, it was pretty good…It was super gusty; the winds were in and out, and you couldn’t tell how it would be. Some guys had a lot [of headwind], you just couldn’t tell. I don’t remember catching too much headwind up top on the flats. …I definitely didn’t have a headwind.”

Erik Guay of Canada had a solid eleventh. “Got down on two feet,” he said. “The top part was good, solid skiing. I’m actually pretty surprised I stayed in eleventh. It has to do with the wind.”

Justin Johnson of the United States, who re-qualified for the U.S. Ski Team by relentlessly pursuing the necessary results for a 26 year old, came out of 53rd to finish a career-best 24th. His results have been getting steadily better over the season. “We’re going to go over there and give him a high-five,” said Miller, who had been speaking to an interviewer over the public announcement system during Johnson’s run. “This is a great result for him.”

Home, home on the range…
After the 21st racer had finished, a deer somehow managed to get through the fencing and onto the race arena, and could be seen from the finish, galloping around the long final straightaway and looking for an exit.

Kristian Ghedina, who is tied with Franz Klammer for the most wins (three) on this classic downhill course, blew by the deer as it scrambled around, and then laughed and cheered in the finish, beckoning the animal across the finish line. When it crossed the line the crowd cheered. Course workers ultimately wrestled the deer to the gound and escorted it from the premises.

“It was kind of violent the way they grabbed him and pulled him off the hill,” said Canadian Erik Guay. “But they have to get him off. What can you do?”

When Ski Racing‘s reporter asked Guay if he thought the appearance of the deer could have been a prank set up by Kristian Ghedina, the hometown favorite who is a bit of an activist for more lightheartedness on the World Cup, Guay was doubtful. “There’s always little holes in the fence, and I’m sure he just managed to get his way in there somehow, and that was it,” said Guay. “That would be pretty dangerous. If it had just turned sharply and he would have hit it, he was toast. It was good to see though. It’s fun.

World Cup

Men’s Downhill
Val Gardena, Italy
Dec. 18, 2004

1. Max Rauffer, GER 1:50.59
2. Juerg Gruenenfelder, SUI 1:50.64
3. Johann Grugger, AUT 1:50.72
4. Fritz Strobl, AUT 1:51.03
5. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 1:51.26
6. Patrik Jaerbyn, SWE 1:51.30
7. Bryon Friedman, USA 1:51.40
8. Norbert Holzknecht, AUT 1:51.58
9. Antoine Deneriaz, FRA 1:51.59
10. Kurt Sulzenbacher, ITA 1:51.70
11. Erik Guay, CAN 1:51.73
12. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:51.78
13. Werner Franz, AUT 1:51.84
14. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:51.85
14. Bode Miller, USA 1:51.85
16. Didier Defago, SUI 1:51.87
17. Nicolas Burtin, FRA 1:51.92
18. Finlay Mickel, GBR 1:51.98
19. Marco Buechel, LIE 1:51.99
20. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:52.07
21. Christoph Kornberger, AUT 1:52.08
22. Didier Cuche, SUI 1:52.12
23. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 1:52.18
24. Justin Johnson, USA 1:52.21
25. David Poisson, FRA 1:52.26
26. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:52.27
27. Mario Scheiber, AUT 1:52.53
28. Scott Macartney, USA 1:52.63
29. Florian Eckert, GER 1:52.65
30. Bjarne Solbakken, NOR 1:52.68
other North Americans:
48. Jeff Hume, CAN 1:53.29
55. Wade Bishop, USA 1:54.31
61. Jake Zamansky, USA 1:56.60

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

equipment
Men’s Downhill, ValGardena,Italy, Dec. 18, 2004
Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Rauffer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Gruenenfelder, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
3 Grugger, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
4 Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
5 Aamodt, Dynastar/Nordica/Tyrolia
6 Jaerbyn, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7 Friedman, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8 Holzknecht, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
9 Deneriaz, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10 Sulzenbacher, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol

It is the 12th of the men’s 35 race (plus 2 combined) World Cup schedule. … It is the fourth of 11 scheduled downhills. … Top nine finishers are within a second. … Winning margin is .05. … Antoine Deneriaz (finished 9th) had won the last two Val Gardena DH’s.

It is the first career World Cup win for Max Rauffer. … His previous best being a third – his only other podium result – in DH at Kvitfjell 3/4/2000. … … No German had ever won a Val Gardena DH. … The last German male to win a World Cup of any discipline was Markus Wasmeier, Garmisch DH, 1/11/92. … Rauffer’s only other result this season was 18th Lake Louise DH 11/27.

It was a career first podium for Juerg Gruenenfelder. … His previous best had been fourth in a two-run DH at Kitzbuehel 1/23/98. … He had not been in the top 15 since March 2000. … No Swiss had been on a Val Gardena DH podium since Xavier Gigandet 12/16/95. … His previous best this season is 17th, Lake Louise SG 11/28. … It is the first podium of the season for the Swiss men.

Johann Grugger matches his career best. … He was also third at St Anton DH 2/14/04. …He was fourth at Lake Louise SG 11/28.

Bryon Friedman matches his career best World Cup placing. … He was also seventh at Beaver Creek 12/3/04. … His result also matches the sixth best placing ever for an American in a Val Gardena DH. … No American has ever won a Val Gardena DH. … Mike Lafferty was third 3/15/72. … AJ Kitt was third 12/12/92. … Andy Mill was fourth 12/15/80 and Kitt fourth 12/14/91. … Bill Kidd was fifth 2/15/70. … Daron Rahlves was 7th 12/20/03 and Bryon Friedman 7th 12/18/04. … It is the 70th top 15 career result for Daron Rahlves. … His seventh top 15 this season. … It is also the 70th top 15 career result for Bode Miller. … his 13th top 15 in DH. … It is his first finish of the season outside the top four. … It is the first career World Cup scoring finish for Justin Johnson. … It is the fifth career scoring finish for Scott MaCartney and his second in two days.

It is the fourth best result, career, for Erik Guay, his second best result o
utside of Canada. … It is his best result of the season, having been 13th at Val d’Isere 12/11.

Bode Miller leads the World Cup overall standings 798-419 for Hermann Maier (finished 37th). … Rahlves is fifth at 274. … Miller holds the DH lead as well at 268-191 for Michael Walchhofer (finished 20th). … Rahlves is third at 179. … Austria leads the Nations Cup 4176-2248 for the U.S. … Austrian leads the men’s standings as well 2779-1312 over the U.S.

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