Beaver Creek, CO, Nov. 28--A year ago, Austrian Hermann Maier had to share the super G victory at the World Championships with Norway's Lasse Kjus. Sunday, Maier - seemingly bulletproof with each succeeding run this past week - had the top step all to himself as he took the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey super G by nearly a full second over teammate Stephan Eberharter. Maier's fourth win of the young season was his third in five days, the 22nd of what's becoming a storied career.
It was the second straight day for Maier and Eberharter going 1-2; the winning time in the first super G of the season was 1:16.51 with Eberharter second in 1:17.45. Kjus - who went from an unprecedented five medals during the World Championships to capturing his second overall World Cup crown last season - stepped onto his first podium of the new season, finishing third in 1:17.64.
Daron Rahlves (Truckee, CA) produced the first top-15 result by a U.S. skier, finishing 14th while Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) came out of the No. 57 start to finish 23rd. Local favorite Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO) was 27th. Race coverage will be Wednesday (Dec. 1) at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN.
"We're good in super G and GS right now. We're getting to the point hwere we have some dpeth in super G, too. We should have three or four guys in the top 30 every time, and Daron and Chad should be competing for good, solid top-10s, and it'll come. And it's gonna be that way soon," said U.S. men's Head Coach Bill Egan. "So, it's like an okay day; it's not a great day. It's gonna be much better shortly."
He said Rahlves "is good, he's really good. I know he's disappointed with 14th, but he'll get up in there in the next few weeks...
"Bode made some really great turns, and that's where you get some speed. And when he got a little out of whack, he was maneuvering to stay on line and that was smart from where he started 57th, so I'm pleased ... the thing he did well, I thought, was he really kept his head about him," Egan said.
Rahlves, who dinged a knee when he crashed in a snowstorm during the World Championships downhill last February on Birds of Prey and then skied off course Saturday in the DH, said he was pleased with his attacking style. He blamed himself for going out Saturday, but drew on the confidence from the way he went after the run; Sunday, he built up a head of steam and kept pushing to the bottom.
"I felt really on it Saturday in the turns and it sort of built all along today. It was definitely, probably the toughest, tightest super G I've ever skied ... but you have to attack the whole way," he said. "You've got to be on top the whole time; if you get off-balance a little bit you're gonna lose a lot of ground."
Miller was 19th in the season-opening giant slalom Oct. 31 but he skied off-course in both the SL Tuesday and the GS on Birds of Prey. Starting at the back of the pack, he said, his expectations were lower but he had to pay more attention - "You go from zero to 60 to in about a gate," he said - and keep his focus because he hasn't raced a lot of World Cup SG and wasn't overly confident with the steep, turny Beaver Creek run.
"It was all right. I could've skied better on the top. I skied better down here and it was solid," Miller said. The early afternoon shadows created tricky conditions at a couple of points, he said, because they shutdown visibility and there also wasn't any way to plan for them during pre-race course inspection. "There's a lot of room for improvement, but I came out ... and didn't ski poorly, so I'm happy."
Before the men left for Lake Louise and another DH/SG combination Dec. 4-5, Egan hung a verbal bouquet on the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey organizers, singling out John Garnsey - longtime president of the Vail Valley Foundation and new president of Beaver Creek resort - and race chief Jimmy Roberts, and their staffs. What originally had been scheduled to be a two-race weekend turned out to be a four-races-in-six days week whhen Beaver Creek picked up the men's technical races which had been weathered-out in Park City.
"This race the four World Cups since Tuesday was put-on on a par equal to the highest standards of European World Cups, and the Europeans were very, very affected by this," Egan said. "They all were very complimentary and they realize they saw a venue here that was the highest quality, and to be perfectly frank, it hasn't always been the case in America and Canada. So, this was a great feather in our caps, and they really thought it was a fantastic course. I mean the conditon of the course, how everything was organized, the fantastic snow conditions, the four beautiful courses on the same hill. They were really astounded; they'd never seen that in North America before...the whole package was fantastic. Actually, it was almost better than the World Championships, if you can imagine that."