Maier Takes Cup Lead; Rahlves Set Back

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Maier 02 14 04

ST. ANTON, Austria, Feb. 14 (AP by Erica Bulman) -- Hermann Maier led an Austrian sweep in a World Cup downhill Saturday and regained the lead in the overall standings.

Daron Rahlves of the United States finished 11th, leaving him only a scant chance at the downhill title.

"I don't know what happened," Rahlves said. "I felt good coming down."

Maier's victory was his fourth this season and 46th of his career, tied for third on the World Cup list with Marc Girardelli. Ingemar Stenmark is first at 86, with Alberto Tomba at 50.

Maier covered the sun-drenched Karl Schranz course in 1 minute, 56.09 seconds.

"I was really angry when I crossed the finish because I made a lot of mistakes and never thought my time would hold up," he said.

Stephan Eberharter was second in 1:56.41, consolidating his downhill standings lead. Johann Grugger was third in 1:56.46 for his first top-three finish. Seven Austrians were in the top 10.

The top American was Bode Miller in eight place, with Bryon Friedman 21st.

Maier overtook teammate Benjamin Raich for first place in the overall standings with 1,054 points. Raich, who did not race Saturday, dropped to second at 985. Eberharter was third at 961 and Miller was fourth at 884.

"It's nice to be back in the overall lead, but at this point it still means nothing," said Maier, who has captured the super giant slalom title.

Maier nearly lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident in August 2001. He returned to ski in a handful of races late last season.

"I never thought at the beginning of the season I would do so well," he said. "But now that I'm here I want to defend my chances."

Eberharter virtually secured the downhill crown, which he won in 2002 and 2003. He leads Maier by 163 points with two races to go. Eberharter has 671 points and Maier has 508. A victory is worth 100 points.

"It looks good for me," Eberharter said.

Rahlves could claim the title if he wins the two remaining downhills and Eberharter fails to score points in either.

"I pretty much had to win this race if I wanted to have a chance for this title at the end of the season," Rahlves said. "But Hermann and Steph put down some good races today."

Hannes Trinkl, the 2001 downhill world champ, injured his shoulder and was taken to a hospital in Schruns, Austria. The Austrian team said it's not yet clear if he will be sidelined.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press