SESTRIERE, Italy Dec. 13, 2004 - World Cup leader Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) took a first-run lead Monday night and won a slalom on what's expected to be the 2006 Olympic slalom hill. In winning his sixth race - his 18th overall - in this young season, it's also his fifth in 17 days, covering four disciplines. Tom Rothrock (Cashmere (WA) produced his best SL result, finishing sixth, and Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) was 23rd.
"Bode led the first run going at 80 percent - he skied really clean - and went after it on the second run," Head Coach Phil McNichol said after Miller won his second race in 30 hours, this time in 1:39.03 with Swiss skier Silvan Zurbriggen second in 1:40.30 and Kalle Palander of Finland third (1:40.44). Miller tops the World Cup standings with 730 points, well ahead of Austrian Hermann Maier, the defending World Cup overall champion who has 339.
"When you feel good it makes everything easier," Miller said, "and I'm healthy, haven't been sick. My balance is good and the necessary things are in their place.
Snow dries out at night, makes for touch conditions
"Running fourth, the first run was perfect - really, both were perfect, but running 30th in the flip-30 format after he led the qualifying run in the second run, it was a little chopped. At night, on a cold night, the snow gets dry and it's tough. But that first run was super smooth."
Miller said he was especially pleased because he hadn't trained a lot in slalom this fall and he hooked a tip a week earlier in the first slalom of the season, Dec. 5 at the VISA Birds of Prey World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colo. On the first run, he said, "I didn't take any risks ... I was a little surprised I was that far ahead.
"(Austrian Rainer) Schoenfelder and (Austrian Manfred) Pranger were down and they were, like, 1.1 seconds out. But they were early...and when Kalle and (Croatian Ivica) Kostelic came down and they six-tenths, seven-tenths out, I really was surprised."
It was his third night slalom victory, following one in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, in December 2001 and Schladming, Austria, last January. However, he said he doesn't favor nighttime races or daytime; his best previous result in Sestriere was last year when he finished seventh. "Night racing's always been good for me but I don't have a preference," Miller, a Carrabassett Valley Academy (ME) product.
Night race means racers get to eat early
"The nice thing about night races, though, is I get to eat before the race. There's plenty of time between runs so I can get something and that's good. And sometimes at races you go back up and it's cold and wet and all that, but that's usually not a problem at night."
Rothrock, who was 12th in the opening run, finished in 1:41.53 and Ligety, 11th in the first run, was timed in 1:50.32 after a couple of final-run mistakes.
"Bode didn't take a lot of risks but it was just really good skiing," McNichol said. "And 'Rotty' has a great day...and Ligety - we almost had three guys in the flowers. But this is a tough hill; the snow was injected and it had a lot of length - maybe 12-15 meters between gates, so they were carrying a lot of speed."
One of only five men to have won races in all five events (DH, super G, giant slalom, slalom and combined), Miller's previous wins this season included two in downhill and giant slalom plus one in super G. He has 18 wins in his career - a U.S.-record eight in GS, five in slalom, two in both combined and downhill, and the super G win. By winning in four different events, he duplicates Marc Girardelli's achievements during the 1989 season.
After winning the season-opening GS Oct. 24 in Soelden, Austria; his current streak of five wins in four countries over 17 days began Nov. 27 with a downhill triumph at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies and the SG win the next day. He won another DH Dec. 3 at Beaver Creek, Colo., and another GS Sunday in Vall d'Isere, France.
The men face three races at week's end - a super G Friday and the season's fourth downhill Saturday in Val Gardena, Italy, followed by the traditional GS in Alta Badia. And then a GS and slalom next Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 21-22, in Flachau, Austria.
MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
Sestriere, ITA - Dec. 13, 2004
Men's Slalom (Night)
1. Bode Miller, Franconia, N.H., 1:39.03
2. Silvan Zurbriggen, Switzerland, 1:40.30
3. Kalle Palander, Finland, 1:40.44
4. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 1:41.34
5. Akira Sasaki, Japan, 1:41.35
6. Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, Wash., 1:41.53
23. Ted Ligety, Park City, Utah, 1:50.32
Did not qualify for 2nd run:
Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah; Jimmy Cochran, Keene, N.H.; Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt.; Jesse Marshall, Pittsfield, Vt.