Coach: "...exciting to see him step on the gas."
World Cup leader Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) skied a nearly flawless second run Sunday and picked up his fifth win of the season - his second in giant slalom, overtaking three Austrians from the first run to further boost his points margin. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) was 15th and Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) 21st.
Defending World Cup overall champion Hermann Maier led a 1-2-3 Austrian charge in the first run, but they couldn't hold off Miller. He had the third-fastest second run and finished in 2:20.66 with Lasse Kjus of Norway, who won the GS a week earlier at the VISA Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, Colo., in second place (2:20.95). Maier was third at 2:20.99.
"It was good - a little weird, but good. I took the first run easy and then I knew that the second [run] would be dark and bumpy and hard. It always is," Miller said. "I attacked pretty hard on that second run. I didn't try to win it; it wasn't like I took crazy chances but I took enough risks that I knew if I executed I could win."
Head ruled his heart
It was frustrating, he explained, "to let that first run go the way I did because I was starting fourth and it was buffed, no big, hard crankers where I could've skied aggressively and it would've been fun...and I know this course. It's so hard to attack on the second run when you're running 27th [in the flip-30 format]."
Still, he kept to his game plan, Miller said, and then charged through the second run, putting heat on the top three from the first run. In the shaded second run, skiers are forced to jam their skis to prevent skiing out, and that creates cross ruts "and it chunks out enough in tough spots," he said.
"A few gates in a few sections, three or four, broke up enough to make it significantly hard to go fast later on. Raich and Gruber went down on their hip, the snow was so aggressive and grippy," he said. "If you can't see the next gate and you're kinda tired," skis can get jammed and caught and - bang! - a racer's down on his hip. 'You rely on the integrity of your ski on the snow, and if the ski hits a bump, the pressure's all gone and you're instantly on your hip. There's no chance for recovery."
He looks to do better Monday night in a slalom in Sestriere, Italy, where his best result is seventh. He's done well in night slaloms - winning in Madonna diCampiglio, Italy, and Schladming, Austria, and wants to improve his record in Sestriere.
"Having gone out in both races last week in Beaver Creek," Coach Mike Morin said, "Bode wanted to get that first run in, then go for it in the second run...and it was something exciting to see him step on the gas. And when Bode lays down a run like he did on the second run, you know the guys still at the start get a little nervous...and you could see them unravel today...
"Bode said he would ... and he did..."
"He said he was gonna ski as fast as he could on the second run and he did it, and that was it. Maier's got nerves of steel, as everybody knows, but Bode got to him today," Morin said.
Rahlves, who produced the second-best GS result of his career (behind his 12th a year ago in Adelboden, Switzerland), also was looking to make amends after skiing out a week ago in the Birds of Prey GS at the fifth gate. "He's still got speed to give," Morin said, "but this was a good one to get back some confidence." Spencer lost time at the top of his second run and dropped back.
A tactical error cost Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) on the first run as he missed a gate after sailing through the top half of the course, according to Morin, while Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH) had problems at the bottom of the first run after being 11th and 15th at the two timing splits. "Erik showed he's back on the form he had a year ago before he was injured," Morin said. "You could see coaches' mouths drop as he blazed by 'em."
After nine races, Miller has 630 points to 339 for Maier; the Carrabassett Valley Academy (ME) product also leads the downhill and GS standings. Rahlves, a Green Mountain Valley School (VT) graduate, is sixth with 236 points.
The next men's race is Monday night in Sestriere, Italy.
MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
49th Criterium de la Premiere Neige
Val d'Isere, FRA - Dec. 12, 2004
Men's Giant Slalom
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 2:20.66
2. Lasse Kjus, Norway, 2:20.95
3. Hermann Maier, Austria, 2:20.99
4. Davide Simoncelli, Italy, 2:21.51
5. Mirko Deflorian, Italy, 2:21.52
15. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 2:22.13
21. Dane Spencer, Boise, Idaho, 2:22.91
Did not qualify for 2nd run:
Jimmy Cochran, Keene, N.H.; Jake Zamansky, Aspen, Colo.
Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah
Courtesy of US Ski Team