BEAVER CREEK, Colo. Dec. 1, 2006 (USSA Release)—Reigning downhill world champion Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) ignored a steady snowfall and someone sliding across the course in front of him at midrace Friday to win a World Cup downhill at the VISA Birds of Prey, leading three other U.S. skiers into the top 10 for the best U.S. men's finish in a World Cup downhill.
Steven Nyman (Provo, UT) was third for the first podium of his career with Scott Macartney (Redmond, WA) eighth and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) 10th. Two years ago, Miller won with Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) - now retired and watching in the finish Friday - second and Bryon Friedman (Park City, UT) sixth for the then-alltime American DH best.
"It's racing here, racing at home. Birds of Prey gets these guys going...and, as we've seen, they've done a job of responding, not just today but over the last few years," said Men's Head Coach Phil McNichol. "It's very satisfying to have race results validate what you've been doing...and we saw a lot of validation out there today. Good for all of 'em."
Miller collected the 22nd World Cup victory (third in DH) of his career in 1:46.15 with Swiss skier Didier Cuche second (1:46.30) and Nyman third in 1:46.48 before an overflow crowd of about 5,000. NBC will televise coverage of the VISA Downhill Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. ET.
Miller: Birds of Prey "has all the elements"
Miller dominated the course, coming out of the 26th start. But for him, Miller said, it's the sheer joy of tackling one of the toughest and most challenging tracks on the tour. He also praised course crews for their professionalism in preparing the course each season, but especially with the snows which have fallen this week - upwards of two feet overnight Monday and more Thursday night.
"I've won here before and it's the hill, maybe me more than any other racer in the field. I just enjoy running (Birds of Prey). Even when I've lost here," he said, "I've had an awesome time. It's like Kitzbuehel (Austria - home of the legendary Hahnenkamm DH each January).
"When I come off that last jump, you're floating through the air, you realize you're probably not gonna crash, (and) I'm pretty happy every time. It doesn't matter if I'm fifth or 10th, I've been all over the place. And I've won here, and definitely that feeling is great. It's just an awesome course," he said. "It pushes you in the way the jumps are some of the best we have on World Cup, the way the whole pitch is. It has all the elements.
"It's really like five smaller races squooshed together," Miller said.[pagebreak]He said he wasn't troubled when someone slid across the course shortly after he came off the flats and dropped over the brink in the transitional section after the Talon Turn. It happened so quickly and the person was out of his path when Miller got there.
"It was pretty quick in the timeframe I was working with. It was like a second, second and a half," he said. In his peripheral vision, he picked up this object sliding across the track, but as he cleared the Talon Turn - "I had a rough transition, and got pretty back" on his skis - he was able to keep attacking the hill. And when he passed where the person slid over the run, Miller was totally focused on finishing.
"Blind" Nyman was attacking
Nyman, the 2002 Junior World Championships slalom gold medalist, who has turned more to speed events in recent years, said, "I skied solid. I skied well and I'm happy with what I did.
"I had to nail the turns down the pitch and I know how to ski the flats, and I ripped it. I'm happy," he said. Then, he added with a big smile, "I couldn't see where I was going, but I was charging!"
Macartney said the snowfall made for flat light, which was tricky on a fast course. Overnight snowfall left several inches on the course, which was skied off by early racers as the conditions quickly got down to the hardpack course. "It was a challenge," said Macartney, a two-time Olympian from Dartmouth College. "Tough conditions, the light was flat...and when that happens, you get a lot of speed - it's fun to take on that challenge and see what you're made of.
"There were parts where I wasn't sure I was gonna make it down the course," he said. "But," he added, "that's part of a lot of World Cup courses."
Sullivan was especially happy because in December 2002 he finished sixth before tearing knee ligaments a year later when he crashed after spinning off the final jump, forcing him to miss the 2005 season. "I've kinda come full circle," he said. "To be back in the top 10 is a good feeling...
"This is my best result in four years, also here at Beaver Creek," he said. Looking at an analysis of split timing sections on the course, Sullivan beamed and pointed to the results showing he had the fastest timing.
The Birds of Prey races continue Saturday with the Sirius Satellite Radio giant slalom - won a year ago by Miller - and conclude Sunday with the Rauch slalom. Live timing of all races is available via http://livetiming.usskiteam.com with WCSN.com streaming video beginning Saturday at 12:45 p.m. ET and 3:45 p.m. ET; Sunday, WCSN will begin coverage Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET and 2:15 p.m. ET.
MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
VISA Birds of Prey
Beaver Creek, CO - Dec. 1, 2006
VISA Men's Downhill
1. Bode Miller, Bretton Woods, NH, 1:46.15
2. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 1:46.30
3. Steven Nyman, Provo, UT, 1:46.48
4. Peter Fill, Italy, 1:46.53
5. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 1:47.12
Other US Finishers
8. Scott Macartney, Redmond, WA, 1:47.47
10. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 1:47.60
43. JJ Johnson, Park City, UT, 1:49.35
45. Kevin Francis, Bend, OR, 1:49.71
46. Chris Beckmann, Altamont, NY, 1:49.73
50. Erik Fisher, Sandpoint, ID, 1:50.30