Austria's Raich Wins Giant Slalom

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FLACHAU, Austria, Jan. 5, 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman) -- Austria's Benjamin Raich captured a giant slalom Saturday in a World Cup race Bode Miller was in position to win before skidding off the course.

Raich, who won for the first time in more than two years, rallied from second place after the opening leg. His two-run time was 2 minutes, 22.54 seconds.

"I'm very pleased because my fans have also been waiting a long time, and a lot of people came to see me race here," he said.

Italy's Massimiliano Blardone, the first-run leader, was second in 2:23.24, his first top-three finish. Norway's Bjarne Solbakken was third in 2:23.36. The top U.S. skier was Dane Spencer in 18th place.

Miller, third in the first leg, skied off course in the second run after leading by 0.70 seconds at the final split.

Runner-up to Stephan Eberharter in the overall World Cup standings last season, Miller fell in this season's opening slalom in Park City, Utah.

The American also failed to complete three straight races in Vail, Colo., last month and did not qualify for the second leg of a slalom last month in Madonna di Campiglio.

Miller still leads the discipline standings but he is 10th in the overall standings. Hermann Maier leads that category, two points ahead of Austrian countryman Hans Knauss.

Maier failed to qualify for the second run on his home slope, which is named for the double Olympic champion. He slipped in the final gates of the opening run.

"I was pretty bad today, fighting the slope instead of skiing down. ... I wanted too much today and it did not work out," he said.

Maier said he was distracted by racing at home.

"I know all the course workers and gatekeepers and during yesterday's inspection, they all wanted to talk to me, to wish me luck," he said. "It was difficult to focus on the task at hand."

This was his second race at home since 1999. Maier sat out the 2002 World Cup finals in Flachau because of injuries from a 2001 motorcycle crash in which he nearly lost a leg.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press