BEAVER CREEK, CO (Dec. 7) USST – Daron Rahlves, laying aside the frustration of training problems and previous races, attacked from the back Saturday, finishing third behind Austrian leader Stephan Eberharter in the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey downhill as he led three U.S. men into the top 10 of a World Cup downhill for the first time in 30 years.
ESPN will broadcast coverage of the race Thursday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. EST.
It was the third straight victory and fourth of the season for Eberharter, who started 30th on the icy, hard track at Birds of Prey and sailed to victory in 1:40.18, edging teammate Michael Walchhofer by one-tenth of a second. It’s the 20th win for the highly popular Eberharter, who waved a small flag from the victory podium.
Rahlves, bumped back to the No. 37 start slot after being disqualified Friday for using an illegal knee support, said he decided to ignore the frustrations and disappointments of the early season and just have some fun on the big hill. He finished in 1:40.56 with Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) sixth in 1:40.98 and Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) making it three straight speed-event top-10s as he was eighth.
“Every single day,” Rahlves said, I’m getting better. I now have my Langes (boots) dialed-in. The first day before training here I felt some great feelings I hadn’t felt in over a month. When you’re feeling good, you have confidence. I made some mistakes today, but my confidence carried me.”
RAHLVES: “HUGE STEP”
He saluted Eberharter’s performance, noting, “What impresses me is how strong Eberharter is skiing. Every race, he comes up with a great day. It’s good,” according to Rahlves, “because there’s really someone to work hard for and chase and knock down, but it’s going to be tough.
“But I’ve made a HUGE step in just one week.”
Reflecting on the confusing post-training run disqualification of Rahlves, Norwegian ace Kjetil Andre Aamodt and several other Friday, the Californian said, “Yesterday it was like there’s a new rule every day. I’ve taken the brunt of it. I got disqualified because I had a little bib modification, then I missed my bib draw in Lake Louise and got bumped back, then I went out the next day kind of angry. Today, I was just like, ‘hey, it didn’t work in the past so let’s go out there today and do what I can.’
“The great thing,” Rahlves said, “is that here at Beaver Creek on the Birds of Prey the snow is SO good, it was just as good starting 37th as it would have been earlier.”
BEST U.S. MEN’S DH SHOWING SINCE KITZ ’72
The three Americans in the top10 is the first since Mike Lafferty, Eric Poulsen and Dave Currier at Kitzbuehel in 1972. The last time two American men finished in the top 10 was 1984 when newly crown Olympic DH champion Bill Johnson won and Doug Lewis was eighth in Whistler, B.C. While AJ Kitt, Tommy Moe and Kyle Rasmussen, Rahlves and Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO) have had outstanding results, somehow none of them have finished together in a top 10, according to a Ski Team check of race results.
“I wanted to do it in front of the U.S. crowd,” Rahlves said. “Americans have never stepped up here and today was a big showing for all of us. A couple years ago when Bode won in Val d’Isere (sic) that kind of got me going and I wanted to step up and be right in there. (Eric) Schlopy did really well, then I went into Kitzubehel and got a third and a fourth, then in the (2001) Worlds I won. Now in the downhill, things are really going.
“Bode started out the season and got things going, and it’s great for me to step up today and have the best result of our team this year. It’s so early and there’s going to be a lot more results for all of us. I’m fired up for Marco, being from Tahoe and a good buddy of mine. Tahoe’s really going to be going off tonight, I can tell you that.
“My goal right now is to just get better every day.”
Sullivan, noting his parents weree in the bleachers at the bottom of the course, said starting seventh gave him confidence to attack all the way. “I’ve never started that high in a World Cup before,” he said. “I knew the course was going to be smooth and I just wanted to give it my all in my home country and give the fans a show.
NIGHT OF GOOD SLEEP FUELED SULLIVAN’S RUN
“I wasn’t that nervous — I got a good eight hours of sleep and was just ready to race today, it was good. …I’m skiing well and I’m confident. I’m ready to go to Europe and get some good results. We’re going to have a good group. We’re all skiing fast, we get along well and hopefully we can get some good results…
“The first couple of downhills this season Bode and I have been battling in the training runs. And he got me in Lake Louise, and I edged him here, so we have a good rivalry going,” Sullivan said.
Miller, who was seventh in both the DH and super G last weekend at Lake Louise, said, “I felt smoother on the pitch — I didn’t make the same mistakes I made (in Friday’s final training run). What it takes now is to just not to make the little mistakes. There’s no question I can turn with the best of them and my skis are fast.”
For DH/SG Head Coach John (John-o) McBride, there were plenty of smiles.
“This is outstanding. I’ve never been involved in anything like this as long as I’ve been with the team. I’m excited, I’m elated. We’re jumping up and down on the side of the hill, we’re hugging each other, we’re fired up!
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, and I wouldn’t say I expected it. But I think it’s well within our limits to do what we did today. We surpassed my expectations, especially after Lake Louise, and the guys proved it today when it counted,” McBride said.
The men race super G Sunday and then head to Val d’Isere, France.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Chevy Truck Birds of Prey
Beaver Creek, CO – Dec. 7
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 1:40.18
2. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 1:40.28
3. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 1:40.56
4. Fritz Strobl, Austria, 1:40.72
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 1:40.98
6. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 1:41.04
8. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:41.10
23. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 1:42.29
41. Scott Macartney, Redmond, WA, 1:42.81
DNF: Bryon Friedman, Park City, UT