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Drama Builds as Weekend Races Approach


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SESTRIERE, Italy, Mar. 11 – Austrian Hermann Maier, already the super G champion, won the super G at World Cup Finals Thursday while Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) skied off-course and dropped to fourth in the overall points – but still within striking distance going into the weekend tech events. Miller leads the giant slalom standings in his bid for a first World Cup title.

“Now it’s pretty simple for Bode – two races and he’s got to win both of ’em. That makes for some good drama,” Men’s Head Coach Phil McNichol said.

In the super G, Maier was behind at the first timing interval but then devoured the Kandahar run – which will be the men’s Olympics speed course in 2006 – in 1:18.73 for the 47th win of his career (third all-time) as Austrians took the top four places.

Maier has 1,265 points with Saturday’s GS and Sunday’s slalom – which he normally doesn’t run – all that remains. Miller, who was 22nd in downhill and went out in the middle of the super G course, has 1,098 points and is mathematically still alive in the overall points chase.

Rahlves holds all-time U.S. best DH and SG standings

Stephan Eberharter, who has won the last two overall World Cup championships, was second in the race at 1:19.36 and held onto second in the points (1,223); like Maier, he normally doesn’t run slalom. Christoph Gruber took third (1:19.48) and Benjamin Raich was fourth (1:19.59), the best super G of his career, as he moved into third in the points at 1,113.

Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), who won Wednesday’s downhill to open Finals, had problems from the start and finished 12th with a time of 1:20.24. It was enough to preserve his No. 2 ranking, an all-time U.S. best, in the final super G points behind Maier; Tommy Moe was third in 1994. Rahlves also owns the all-time U.S. best in downhill standings, having been runnerup to Eberharter last season and again in ’04.

Several inches of snow during the night were cleared from steep places, he said, but course crews were unable to get all of it off the flats. Temperatures were in the mid-teens at the (9:30 a.m.) start of the race.

“I skied really well, just made one huge mistake in one turn,” Rahlves said. “It was on the flat toward the bottom, probably cost me eight-tenths in that one turn, and what was after it came on and ate me up bigtime. I was definitely rolling.” The irony is that when he took the opening DH 24 hours earlier, Rahlves did it by nailing the bottom of the run.

“Grippy” snow grabbed his skis

“I felt good this morning and I’m a little surprised I was .3 out on top because it felt like I was in there…but that one big turn at the bottom did it. I just came in a little too tight and didn’t get enough pressure on his edges for a high-speed turn…it was bumpy, wavy. I made it around the gate but the snow last night made it grippy on the flat section and it grabbed my skis. That went for about five turns and I was just coasting…”

Rahlves was disappointed in the outcome after winning a super G and finishing fourth in SG over the weekend in Norway, then winning Wednesday’s DH. “It’s frustrating, coming off some good skiing and then making that one mistake,” he said. “The skiing’s there, though; I just need to work on certain areas where it gets round and there are the big, bending turns. I knew what to do, just didn’t get it done.

“Still, it’s good to know what to do on this course, what to do on the rolls” with the Olympics less than two years away, he said.

Although he was more than a second out at the second timing split, Miller felt he was skiing well when he went out. He came back onto the course, started to ski, ripped a control gate out of the snow and then skied off course. Later, he said he wasn’t overly upset at the finish “because I got my aggression out” on the gate.

“I thought I skied the top just the way I wanted … I didn’t expect it where I went out,” Miller said. “I don”t get frustrated with things like that. I came in there in good shape, I just needed to make my adjustment 20 yards before that point.” He felt the course was challenging as a downhill but wasn’t as challenging as a super G run. “There were two turns that were really challenging and the last jump; I went really wide on a right-footer lefthand turn and then in the corridor after that…”

Miller: Overall reflects season, not final week

If he wins or loses the overall title, Miller told reporters, it won’t be because of how he’s done at World Cup Finals. “You don’t lose it at the end of the season. You lose it all through the season. If I lose the overall, this super G won’t be why I lost it,” he said.

McNichol said, “The guys were ready to go; they just made mistakes and in this setting, World Cup Finals, all the big guns in super G, there’s not a lot of room for error.”

With the focus shifting to Saturday’s giant slalom, the coach said that’s where Miller’s attention should have been all along. “I’ve said all along Bode should be thinking of that GS title. Let’s get the title in the event where he’s been so dominant in the last two years. Getting that first title is big but GS is the natural step for him before going after the overall,” McNichol said.

He was pleased Rahlves was able to protect his No. 2 ranking in super G. “It’s another big step forward for ‘D’ with his two super G wins. He keeps improving,” McNichol said.

Friday is a day off before Miller and Palander tangle for the GS crown Saturday.