Val d'Isere, France Dec. 7, 2001 (USSA)--Stephan Eberharter may have felt hewasn't skiing so well but the Austrian showed no real signs of rustinessFriday despite a nearly six-week layoff as he won the first super G ofthe season by four-hundredths of a second. U.S. skiers struggled withDaron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) the top racer finishing 24th.
"It's super disappointing," Rahlves said. "We just weren't on top of it.I made three big mistakes tactically...It was poor skiing."
Eberharter, a three-event racer who was No. 2 behind Hermann Maier inWorld Cup overall standings a year ago and expected to take over asAustria's leading skier with Maier out with a leg injury, marked "TheHermannator's" 29th birthday by winning in 1:26.53. Didier Cuche ofSwitzerland was runnerup in 1:26.57 with another Swiss, SilvanoBeltrametti, third in 1:27.18 as the super G was a makeup from BeaverCreek, Colo.
"I wish Hermann a happy birthday," Eberharter said as his teammaterecuperates from a broken leg suffered in late August, "but I'm stillnot dedicating my victory to him." Eberharter was secod in the openingrace of the season, a giant slalom Oct. 28 in Soelden, Austria, andhasn't raced since; this was the seventh World Cup win of his career forthe 1991 world SG champion.
For the U.S. skiers, Rahlves started slowly -- a full second behindEberharter at the first split at the top -- and finished in 1:29.15.Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY) was 33rd in 1:30.30, less than .2 out of thepoints, while Chad Fleischer was 35th, Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) 45thand Scott Macartney (Redmond, WA), returning from aching knees thatsidelined him most of last season, was 51st in the field of 74.
"We pretty much had a rough ride. The snow was grippy up top but slickon the ottom; it got glazed," according to Rahlves. "We've got anotherone tomorrow, so we'll be back after it."
The men, idle since two slaloms Nov. 25-26 in Aspen, have fourconsecutive days of racing in Val d'Isere. Saturday, they run the firstdownhill of the Cafe de Colombia season, Sunday's it's giant slalom, andMonday night they'll be in Madonna diCampiglio, Italy, for a slalomunder the lights. The men's DH from Beaver Creek still has not beenrescheduled.