SOELDEN, Austria Oct. 24, 2004 (USSA)--Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), who won a year ago on the Rettenbach Glacier and used it as a springboard to the World Cup giant slalom title, led the first run Sunday and tore to another GS victory - the 13th of his career - by more than a second in the men's opening race. Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) was 17th with Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) 25th.
Miller led the first run by nearly a second of Italy's Massimiliano Blardone and Kalle Palander of Finland. He skied aggressively but safely through the sunny second run and finished with a time of 2:16.44. Blardone was runnerup in 2:17.61 with Palander third (2:17.92).
Schlopy, returning after surgery on his left knee last season, was 12th in the first run and finished in 2:18.74 while Spencer moved up three places with a time of 2:19.28 in the sunny weather with temperatures in the upper 30s.
Miller: Good start spot set the stage
"It's a good way to start," Miller said in the finish. "First run I ran in the perfect position - I ran fifth - so I had a good course report. I knew there were no tricky parts, so I skied the top aggressively and then was mellow the rest of the way."I knew it was gonna be tough, though. I've raced here before and been the leader or the top two or three the last couple of years, and I knew it would be dark at the bottom, so I had to be ready coming down that pitch.
"And it was a survival second run," he continued. "With a second lead, I wan't concerned about winning that second run but I couldn't sit back. The course keeps coming at you and I had a couple of trouble spots, almost went down. I got going too fast and once you're going too fast, you can get out of control. Again, though, you can't back off too much because this course'll bite you."
The win was the 13th of his career for the Carrabassett Valley academy product, his seventh in GS to go with three combined victories and three slalom wins. The first U.S. man since Phil Mahre in 1983 to win a World Cup title when he won the 2004 giant slalom crown, Miller also stands second to Mahre among American men, third overal; Tamara McKinney is the most successful U.S. woman with 18 World Cup triumphs.
Schlopy, U.S. coaches smiling, too
Schlopy, the bronze medalist in giant slalom at the 2003 World Championships, crashed in Soelden to start last season and tore ligaments in his left knee when he crashed four weeks later in the second GS - on his home hill at Park City Mountain Resort. He was back on snow in May and has been working to regain his timing through training camps in New Zealand, Chile and Austria.
"It feels good to get the first race out of the way," Schlopy said, adding he's been skiing "with force" within just the last two weeks. "I was really nervous this morning just because it's been so long since I competed. I'm pretty excited it's over. I'm healthy and officially off to my beststart. It wasn't a great race by any means but it was a good first race for me."
Schlopy, who switched to Nordica Skis in the preseason, said, "I'm really happy with the change and know I'm only gonna get faster. ...Second run was a lot straighter. I took it easy, just wanted to get to the finish and be happy with my start...and I'm happy."
Men's Head Coach Phil McNichol and SL/GS Head Coach Mike Morin, who set the first run, were pleased to see more than Miller finish for the U.S. squad. For the past two years, Miller - who was fifth two years ago, won last October - was the only American to reach the second run. Sunday, Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH) narrowly missed the second run, finishing .22 out, while Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) and Jake Zamansky (Aspen, CO) fell coming onto the long lower pitch.
"Bode and Erik and Dane did a great job, and, really, Jimmy was so close again...two-tenths or so, and he's ready to break into the top 30. Bode did a really good job. He made no mistakes on that first run and when he makes noo mistakes," McNichol said, "he's always fastest. The course broke down a bit on the second run - it wasn't beat up but it did get quite bumpy, and you try speed and bumps and it's a tough mix.
"Schlopy had a really good first run and backed off a little on the second run, but he's totally capable of being right back into that top 15, even at 85 percent. It was a good day for him...and Dane, 11th fastest on the second run, had a good one, too. He didn't ski as well as in training, but his new setup (he switched to Elan Skis in the preseason) worked fine, which was good."
The next men's races are a downhill and super G Nov. 27-28 at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies and then the men head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for a super G, downhill, GS and slalom Dec. 2-5.
MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
Soelden, AUT - Oct. 24, 2004
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 2:16.44
2. Massimiliano Blardone, Italy, 2:17.61
3. Kalle Palander, Finland, 2:17.92
4. Joel Chenal, France, 2:17.95
5. Hans Knauss, Austria, 2:18.05
17. Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah, 2:18.74
25. Dane Spencer, Boise, Idaho, 2:19.28
Did not qualify for 2nd run: Jimmy Cochran, Keene, N.H.
DNF-1: Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., and Jake Zamansky, Aspen, Colo.