VAL D'ISERE, France Dec. 11, 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Bode Miller failed to win a downhill for the first time this season, finishing fourth Saturday in a World Cup race captured by Austria's Werner Franz.
Franz recorded his first World Cup downhill victory after 98 starts, charging down the Oreiller-Killy course in 1 minute, 57.51 seconds.
``Today is like Easter, Christmas and my birthday all wrapped into one,'' Franz said. ``It was worth the wait.''
Franz was 0.27 seconds ahead of Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein, with Michael Walchhofer of Austria third in 1:58.06.
Miller, the winner of the first two downhills this season, was next in 1:58.09. U.S. teammate Daron Rahlves tied for seventh in 1:58.27.
``I'm totally happy,'' said Miller, who went from technical specialist to dominant speedster in a single season. ``I skied really well, especially the whole top of the course. I skied about as well as I thought I was going to. I skied a pretty aggressive, tough line. Aerodynamics were great. I was really good off the jumps.''
After eight races, Miller leads the overall standings with 530 points. He is followed by Walchhofer (284) and Austria's Hermann Maier (279). Rahlves is fifth (220).
``I don't know if it was the wind or what, but all the times were slower for the later skiers,'' Miller said. ``Sometimes on a day like today you'll win and sometimes you'll be fourth.''
Franz finished second in the downhill seven times before and has battled injuries since starting on the World Cup circuit in 1992. He has one other World Cup victory, a super giant slalom in St. Anton, Austria, in 2000, but it was shared with teammate Fritz Strobl.
``I was just trying to prove to my coaches I could still do a good race today,'' Franz said. ``I didn't believe I would be first or even on the podium.''
Last January, the 32-year-old Austrian's season ended when he hurt his shoulder preparing for a lower-tier race. Three years ago, he shredded knee ligaments preparing for the season opener.
``I was just glad to be allowed back onto the team this year,'' Franz said.
Franz's career was in jeopardy after last year's setback. But several Austrian speedsters, including Stephan Eberharter, retired and Franz was given another shot to make the country's outstanding downhill squad.
``Skiing is my life,'' he said. ``When the coaches told me I had a second chance to qualify on the team, I took it. And here I am.''
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