KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (Jan. 4) - Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) stormed throughthe second run of a giant slalom with the fastest time Saturday to claim hissecond World Cup win of the season and take the World Cup points lead for thefirst time by an American man since Phil Mahre in 1983. Erik Schlopy (Park City,UT), laying down the second-fastest final run for his best result in twoseasons, tied for fourth, just two-hundredths of a second away from secondplace.
"We nearly had 'The Big One' - 1-2 for the guys," said a jubilant SL/GS HeadCoach Martin Andersen. "It's good snow: hard and icy - icy but not slick,probably the best conditions of the winter.
"Bode skied so well again and Erik was down twice on his second run and stillhad the second-fastest time," Andersen said. The temperature was in the low 30s.
Added Head Coach Phil McNichol, "The light was gnarly but Bode just skied out ofhis mind and Erik skied so well, too. It was pretty impressive."
"It was a great day and very close to a stupendous day," said Schlopy, who wasfifth in a GS at Park City in November, a big step back in his return from themononucleosis and bronchitis which hobbled him a year ago during the Olympicseason.
In collecting the sixth World Cup victory of his career, Miller - who againskied with a FOR RENT sign on the front of his helmet - was third after thefirst run, trailing Austrian Beni Raich. His near-flawless second run gave himthe victory with a total time of 2:04.05. Austrian Christian Mayer was second in2:04.98 with Finn Sami Uotila third (2:04.99). Schlopy and Raich tied for fourthin 2:05.00. No other U.S. man qualified for a second run.
"I was pretty solid," Miller said, "but the light was tough; it was flat -really tough light, but I was psyched. I had a tough first run and I skied betteron the second run.
"The first run was just a tough set. It was really turny, cranky back and forth.I attacked as much as I could. In the second run, the course was more open. Iwas fired-up, I was amped-out and was attacking hard.
"Mostly, the first run was tough for everybody but especially tough for me to gofast with the tough light. I didn't attack that much; I'd hooked an arm in agate at the top - nothing serious but I lost three-tenths of a second in thefirst 18 or 19 seconds. Still, it was fine - it was what I needed.
"In the second run, I could attack. We went across a bunch ofruts, so that was really tough and the light kept getting worse and worse. Raichjust made a few mistakes."
It was the second straight GS win for the Carrabassett Valley Academy product,following his performance Dec. 22 in Alta Badia, Italy, and enabled him to takeboth the men's overall and GS points leads. Miller has 578 points whiledefending World Cup champ Stephan Eberharter of Austria, returning from a kneeinjury in mid-December, was 24th; in GS, Miller has 325 points as he pulled bySwiss icon Michael Von Gruenigen, second with 302.
"If they gave me a trophy for being in the lead in January, that'd be fine,"Miller said, "but we have to wait to the end. And there's a long ways to go, alot of stuff in between now and there at the end."The good thing is I'm doing so well and I haven't scored any slalom points -but I'm in the lead in GS and I feel I'm ready to score in slalom. It'll be goodto get some points."
Reflecting on the near-miss podium for two Americans, which also hasn't happenedsince Phil and Steve Mahre in Jasna in then-Czechoslovakia, in 1982, Schlopysaid, "I'd like to be confident and say it's probable, that it's gonnahappen…butit's definitely a possibility, a good possibility."
Schlopy was understandably pleased with his second run and his ability togenerate speed when he thought he'd blown an opportunity.
"Every situation is unique," he continued. In Alta Badia, he went down on a hipand couldn't recover as well, finishing 27th, he noted.
"Today, I made that mistake and I thought, 'Screw it. I'm gonna ski aggressivelyfrom here down, skki the best I can. It's not something you can define but I'dmade this mistake and I thought, 'There goes the race; it was significant beforethe flats and my goal was 'Forget the four points for finishing 27th. I needto ski well and prove to myself I can be fast.' I came through the finish and Iput my hand out to break the timing beam and I heard the crowd. I looked up atthe board and I thought 'Minus 33 hundredths? Is that a mistake?'
"I guess I learned a lesson: If you make a mistake, depending on the situation,of course, it's worth it to be aggressive and keep skiing your best," accordingto Schlopy. "I was surprised with my result but I was more happy to know I couldget that result with not a great first fun and certainly an imperfect secondrun.
"I wanted to give Bode some company up there. I like to think I can ski well topush him. That's not a bad situation."
The men run slalom Sunday in Kranjska Gora. The USA stands third in the overallNations Cup points behind Austria and Switzerland.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Kranjska Gora, SLO - Jan. 4
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 2:04.05
2. Christian Mayer, Austria, 2:04.98
3. Sami Uotila, Finland, 2:04.99
4. (tie) Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, and Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:05.00 each
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Dane Spencer, Boise, ID; Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY;Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA; and TJ Lanning, Park City, UT
World Cup Standings (15 races)
1. Miller, 578
2. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 555
3.Didier Defago, Switzerland, 414
4. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 383
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 353
16. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 205
33. Schlopy, 112
40T. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 92
48T. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 76
68. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 29
76T. Vonn, 24
88. Rothrock, 17
108T. Spencer, 9
Giant Slalom (5 races)
1. Miller, 325
2. Michael Von Gruenigen, Switzerland, 302
3. Mayer, 230
4. Massimiliano Blardone, Italy, 157
5. Frederic Covili, France, 155
15T. Schlopy, 99
42. Spencer, 9
47. Vonn, 4
Nef wins Bormio GS
BORMIO, Italy (Jan. 4) - Swiss Sonja Nef held off fast-charging Anja Paerson ofSweden Saturday to win a World Cup giant slalom that had been moved fromBerchtesgaden, Germany, because of poor snow. Caroline Lalive (SteamboatSprings, CO) was top American, finishing 16th.
Nef had a two-run time of 2:24.39 with Paerson second in 2:24.66, nearly asecond ahead of third-place finisher Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria (2:25.64).
Lalive, 20th in the first run, was timed in 2:28.16 with Sarah Schleper (Vail,CO), 10th in the first run, finishing 18th. Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) was27th.
The women race a slalom Sunday.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Bormio, ITA - Jan. 4)
Women's GS (Moved from Berchtesgaden, GER)
1. Sonja Nef, Switzerland, 2:24.39
2. Anja Paerson, Sweden, 2:24.66
3. Michaela Dorfmeister, Austria, 2:25.64
4. Karen Putzer, Italy, 2:25.85
5. Maria Jose Rienda Contreras, Spain, 2:25.98
16. Caroline Lalive, Steamboat Springs, CO, 2:28.16
18. Sarah Schleper, Vail, CO, 2:28.38
27. Kirsten Clark, Raymond, ME, 2:30.04
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Kristina Koznick, Burnsville, MN; Julia Mancuso,Olympic Valley, CA