Kitzbuehl, Austria, Jan. 20, 2001–Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) broke up a second Austrian podium sweep Saturday as he tied for third with Stephan Eberharter in the 61st annual Hahnenkamm World Cup downhill race. Austrian Hermann Maier won for the second straight day.
ESPN will broadcast race coverage this evening at midnight EST.
Maier, who also won Friday’s super G on the legendary course, was unstoppable yet again, taking the victory in 1:56.84. Teammate Hannes Trinkl was second in 1:57.11, while Rahlves and Eberharter each posted a time of 1:57.46, .62 off Maier’s pace. Norwegian Lasse Kjus was fifth (1:57.70) and Austrian Christian Greber was sixth (1:57.97).
It was Rahlves’ best finish of the season and his first World Cup podium since winning back-to-back downhills in Kvitfjell, Norway March3-4 of last season. He came into Saturday’s race with optimism and confidence as he was the top American finisher Friday, taking fourth inthe super G.
“It was the best ride ever,” said Rahlves. “I just went out there and pushed myself. I used every ounce of energy I had and was fighting thewhole way. I tried to be as clean as I could and as fast as I could.”
The podium finish was just the second ever earned by an American at the Kitzbuehel downhill. A.J. Kitt was second in January of 1992while wearing bib number 13. Rahlves chose to start 13th Saturday for that reason.
American skiers have now posted six podium finishes on the World Cup tour this season.
Rahlves skied a solid run from top to bottom on the steep course, which features several huge jumps that launch competitors skyward.Before crossing the finish line, racers are tested on a super steep pitch that ends with a final jump, one that caused big problems duringthe super G. Just 31 of 61 starters finished without crashing or being disqualified Friday.
“Out of the start, I just wanted to be strong and smooth,” said Rahlves. “It got a little slow, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in themiddle (section), but I was pretty fast on the bottom. I had a high line and just let it rip out here. I did something right today, I guess.”
Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO), who had a fifth place finish in the season’s opening downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, placed 12th Saturday witha time of 1:58.74. He came out of the 24th start spot and was in ninth after crossing the finish line. Fleischer’s finish was welcome after hewas disqualified in the super G for missing a gate. He also crashed twice in training Thursday on the bottom section of the course.
Also finishing in the top-30 and receiving World Cup points was Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), who placed 30th with a time of 2:00.04. LikeFleischer, the finish was also a confidence boost as he crashed Friday and burned holes through his speed suit while sliding down the icycourse.
“It was tough running,” said Miller, who started out of the 53rd spot. “I don’t know if even the best guys could have popped (a top finish) fromback there.”
All five of the U.S. skiers finished the race as Jakub Fiala (Breckenridge, CO) was 35th (2:00.45) and Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) was 37th(2:00.68).
Seven Austrians could be found among the top 10 finishers Saturday. At last season’s downhill, Austrians occupied eight of the top 10spots with Fritz Strobl on the top of the podium. Strobl faltered a bit Saturday and finished eighth in 1:58.17.
With Rahlves on the podium, he broke up the Austrian’s bid for a second straight podium sweep. In Friday’s super G, Maier was first, JosefStrobl was second and Werner Franz took third.
The cloud cover was more prevalent Saturday than Friday, which threw some flat liight onto sections of the course. However, temperatureswere unseasonably warm and the thousands of fans had no problem enjoying themselves, especially since they had to brave a winterstorm during the Hahnenkamm last season.
The Kitzbuehel World Cup concludes Sunday with a slalom, which couples with the downhill as a combined event. Rahlves, Miller andPuckett will compete for the combined, while Sacha Gros (Vail, CO) and Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) will also race.
“I’ve been skiing slalom really fast,” said Miller, an all-around skier. “I could be right in there.”
CAFÉ DE COLOMBIA WORLD CUP
Jan. 20, 2001
1. Hermann Maier (Austria), 1:56.84
2. Hannes Trinkl (Austria), 1:57.11
3. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), Stephan Eberharter (Austria); 1:57.46
5. Lasse Kjus (Norway), 1:57.70
6. Christian Greber (Austria), 1:57.97
7. Werner Franz (Austria), 1:58.08
8. Fritz Strobl (Austria), 1:58.17
9. Michael Walchhofer (Austria), 1:58.37
10. Silvano Beltrametti (Switzerland), 1:58.53
11. Peter Rzehak (Austria), 1:58.54
12. Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO), 1:58.74
13. Darin McBeath (Canada), 1:59.03
14. Didier Cuche (Switzerland), 1:59.06
15. Franco Cavegn (Switzerland), 1:59.18
16. Kjetil Andre Aamodt (Norway), 1:59.20
17. Didier Defago (Switzerland), 1:59.27
18. Alessandro Fattori (Italy), 1:59.31
19. Kenneth Sivertsen (Norway), Roland Fischnaller (Italy), 1:59.34
21. Bruno Kernen (Switzerland), 1:59.55
22. Lorenzo Galli (Italy), 1:59.73
23. Luke Sauder (Canada), 1:59.80
24. Marco Buechel (Lichtenstein), 1:59.82
25. Rolf Von Weissenfluh (Switzerland), 1:59.85
26. Kurt Sulzenbacher (Italy), 1:59.86
27. Juergen Hasler (Lichtenstein), 1:59.98
28. Christoph Gruber (Austria), 2:00.01
29. Peter Pen (Slovenia), 2:00.02
30. Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), 2:00.04
35. Jakub Fiala (Breckenridge, CO), 2:00.45
37. Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO), 2:00.68