Austrian Grugger Gets First World Cup Win

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BORMIO, Italy Dec. 30, 2004 (AP) - Austrian downhiller Johann Grugger won his first World Cup race Wednesday on the course that will host the upcoming world championships, while overall Cup leader Bode Miller came in 14th.

Grugger finished in 1 minute, 55.77 seconds on the Stelvio, one of the most physically demanding courses on the World Cup circuit. Austrian Michael Walchhofer, the reigning downhill world champion, was 0.24 seconds behind in second and countryman Fritz Strobl, the Olympic gold medalist, was third.

``I still can't believe it. It's the first time that I've won on the World Cup and I can only say that it feels like a dream,'' Grugger said.

Despite his finish, Miller still holds a 876-560 lead in the standings over Austria's Benjamin Raich, who finished 17th. Defending overall champion Hermann Maier, winless this season, was 11th on Wednesday. He is third overall with 506 points. With strong wind gusts blowing snow squalls onto the course during his run, Miller said the only thing he could see was his skis.

``I just told myself to go straight down and stay focused like I was riding a rodeo,'' he said.

Grugger was behind Walchhofer's pace for most of his run before picking up his speed over the final section. His previous best finished were two third-places in downhills, at Val Gardena on Dec. 18 and St. Anton last season. Daron Rahlves of the United States, who won the last race held here in 2002, was sixth.

The worlds will be held at Bormio _ and nearby Santa Caterina for women _ from Jan. 28 to Feb. 13.

Italy's Kristian Ghedina finished 21st Wednesday, the 151st downhill race of his World Cup career. That broke the mark held by Austria's Peter Wirnsberger for most downhills raced on the circuit.

Ghedina, whose first downhill race was in 1988, was presented at the finish line with a giant cake with ``151'' scrawled across it.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press