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"The Herminator" Strikes Back
Men's GS: Adelboden, Switzerland
January 10, 1999

Young skyrocket
Benjamin Raich (AUT)
Two days after finishing 3rd in his home race at Flachau, Hermann Maier struck back in Adelboden to win the most demanding giant slalom of the World Cup calendar after a interesting duel against his younger teammate Benjamin Raich, winner in Flachau on Sunday.

"It has been a struggle from the first to the last gate yet itís great to win when you have to fight with your guts. I was lucky that the snow was icy today. This result is good for my confidence before the World Championships...."
Hermann Maier

Raich, who clocked the fastest time in the first leg with 16/100 of a second advance on the double Olympic champion, moved down to third place after making a mistake at the beginning of the second run. He lost 82/100 on Maier yet he finished for the fourth time in a row on the podium. Norwayís Kjetil Aamodt, winner here in 1997, achieved his seasonís best performance in coming 2nd at 28/100 which helps him to remain in Hermannís heels in the overall World Cup standings.

Swedenís Fredrik Nyberg reached a promising 4th place in front of another Austrian, Andreas Schifferer, while Switzerlandís Michael von Gruenigen, the main favorite before the race, had to content himself with a more disappointing 6th place. Yet he keeps the lead in the GS World Cup standings with two points advance on Maier.

Americaís Bode Miller got an encouraging 8th place at 1.53 seconds in front of Stephan Eberharter. Three of the top favorites skied out at the end of the first run - Hans Knauss, Christian Mayer from Austria and Italyís Patrick Holzer.

"Except once, I have won the same races as last year - so I canít complain about my present season," said Maier, who only skied out at Park City in November. "Iím really pleased to have done so well here because itís a prestigious competition and Iím not in my best physical shape," added the defending overall World Cup champion.

"I have strong pains at my lower back and I needed to take pain killers before the competition today," he said. "It has been a struggle from the first to the last gate yet itís great to win when you have to fight with your guts. I was lucky that the snow was icy today. This result is good for my confidence before the World Championships. I have tested lots of GS skis recently and I think that we have found a good pair."

He didnít want to speak about a revenge after beating Raich this time. "He is a pretty good skier and he deserved to win the other day," Hermann explained. "Itís good for me that Benjamin showed up, it makes my life easier because people also care a lot about him now. I have a little more time to relax. Beside my pain at my back, I feel strong and I aim to race in the coming events in Wengen and in Kitzbuhel. It will certainly be very exciting."

Last year, Hermann had to skip the famous "Hahnenkamm" races at Kitzbuhel because of shin splints. The rest he took helped him later on to excel at the Olympics at Nagano and to clinch the overall World Cup title. Yet this year, Aamodt is extremely consistent in all events and the favorite for the two upcoming combined events in Wengen and Kitzbuhel.

"I enjoy to put pressure on Hermann these days," said the 1994 overall World Cup champion. "For me to win the Crystal glove is the greatest achievement and I want to win it another time. Iím happy to have finished ahead of Raich who is so strong in this moment. Itís an interesting challenge for me to beat him now that Iím part of the older generation. Not so long ago I was in his position," Aamodt said. Apparently, Aamodt gained much momentum in reaching his first podium of he season last week when he came 3rd in slalom at Schladming.

Benjamin Raich was not too upset by his first defeat since last Thusday; the Tyrolian knew he lost the race in the second run and he was pleased to remain on the podium. "I had no problem to handle the pressure, I have won many Europacup races in the past after starting in 30th position in the final run," he explained.

"I made a big mistake in the upper part and I must be satisfied by my ranking. Iím really having fun right now. It will be crazy next week at Kitzbuhel - I remember my emotion when I started there the first time," Raich said.

The next menís race will take place this weekend in nearby Wengen - a downhill, a slalom and a combined. This time Maier will face another strong Norwegian, Lasse Kjus, who skipped the race today to rest and recover from a cold.

— Mountain Zone European Correspondent

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