KVITFJELL, Norway (March 12) - Ignoring gusting winds, Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) powered through tough conditions Wednesday in the final World Cup downhill of the season to finish third, completing a U.S. men's downhill season like no other: two wins - including the fabled Hahnenkamm DH, second place overall in DH points, and seven top-3s, including six of the last seven downhills.
At the same time as Rahlves was moving into fifth place in the overall standings, Stephan Eberharter of Austria widened his overall lead over Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) to 173 points by finishing second in the men's DH while Miller was 25th.
On a course shortened to the women's DH start because of the winds, Frenchman Antoine Deneriaz won the men's downhill in 1:28.37 and Eberharter was second in 1:28.54. Rahlves, who completed the DH season in second place behind Eberharter, was third with a time of 1:28.58. Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) was 24th and Miller 25th.
In the women's race a short time later on the 1994 Olympic run, Renate Goetschl of Austria won in 1:35.32 with Ingrid Jacquemod of France runnerup in 1:35.64. Clark, who finished third in the downhill points, grabbed her fourth World Cup podium (plus the super G silver medal at the World Championships) with a 1:35.67 clocking while Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA) was 22nd. SG world champ Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister, who was sixth in the finale, won the downhill title.
Rahlves, who graduated from Vermont's Green Mountain Valley School, said he was hit by side wind at the bottom but the shortened course didn't affect him because when he won two downhills in 24 hours on Kvitfjell's speed run three years ago, organizers had to abbreviate the 1994 Olympic DH course, too. "I'd rather start at the top but the winds were so strong they probably would push you back into the start," he said.
RAHLVES: "FOR ME TO WIN NEXT YEAR..."
"I really live for race day. You get all charged up," he said. "I can definitely beat him (Eberharter). Today, I was just .04 back."
"Looking ahead to next year, there are a few courses where I need to be stronger - and I have to work on my gliding skills. I like this place, and it shows.
"Coming into this season," Rahlves said, "my goal was to be more consistent; I've had some speed in the past and been on the podium, but for me that was my biggest goal - to be consistent on the World Cup in downhill and super G...
"For me, to win the title next year, it's going to take coming into every single race prepared, intense and ready to go. When you have a guy like Stephan who wins six races, you can't afford to not be on the podium in even one race...
"It's more of a reality now to go into next season going for the title. I'm just looking forward to the first race," he said. :I think this year one of my successes was just looking race to race, ski each race hard and fast. I showed myself what it take to be on the podium seven times. I know I can build on this. For sure, my goal next year is to go at nothing less than the World Cup title in downhill."
Rahlves added, "It was good to come back here. I met two little kids on the hill (Tuesday), who said, 'Hey, Daron Rahlves - the king of Kvitfjell.' I had a good chance today but have to come back next year to regain the crown."
MILLER: WINDS HIT AT BAD ANGLES
Miller said the gusting winds were "coming at you from really bad angles." I was a little intimidated by the wind. I almost crashed here last year with a wind gust at the bottom...
"The overall (title) is still definitely a possibility; it just depends on the super G (Thursday). This super G course is really good for me, so I think I still have a chance. I've just got to go after it as hard as I can."
One plus from the wind, according to Miller, is it's effect on the snow, which had been softening earlier in the week before a new weather front Tuesday night dropped ttemperatures and changed conditions. "The snow is in really good shape. Actually, the wind really dries it out and makes the course conditions good," Miller said.
COACH AGREES: PRESEASON TRAINING TO SPOTLIGHT GLIDING
DH/SG Head Coach John McBride, who was stationed along the bottom of the run, said, "Daron skied the bottom like a rock star. He did such a good job. It was tough to punch it in from the back today; not a lot did it. The wind made it tougher and the snow started breaking down in a few places, so the conditions got rougher."
"I know 'D' had his heart set on winning; he gave it quite a ride."
Echoing Rahlves' plan for the summer, McBride said they had discussed working more on his gliding technique. "That's definitely one of our major goals, to tackle the gliding. When it's steep and rough and gnarly and dark, 'D' really excels. So, we're going to target that gliding and get that in line, too."
The men stage their final super G of the winter Thursday on a Kvitfjell course where Rahlves earned his first World Cup top-5, finishing fourth in 1995 a day after flying in from winning the Nor Am SG title; Kyle Rasmussen was third in that race, a day after winning a World Cup downhill in Kvitfjell.
2003 FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP RESULTS
World Cup Finals
Kvitfjell, NOR - March 12
1. Antoine Deneriaz, France, 1:28.37
2. Stephan Eberharter, Austria, 1:28.54
3. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 1:28.58
4. Nicolas Burtin, France, 1:28.74
5. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 1:29.15
24. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 1:30.26
25. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:30.50
World Cup Standings
Men's Overall (3 races remaining)
1. Eberharter - 1,233 points
2. Miller - 1,060
3. Aamodt, 870
4. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 677
5. Rahlves, 647
38. Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, 218
52. Sullivan, 136
55. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 130
74T. Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA, 71
76. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 70
101. Scott Macartney, Redmond, WA, 32
111T. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY, 24
132T. Dane Spencer, Boise, ID, 9
Men's Downhill (Final - 11 races)
1. Eberharter, 790
2. Rahlves, 593
3. Michael Walchhofer, Austria, 430
4. Bruno Kernen, Switzerland, 351
5. Hannes Trinkl, Austria, 341
13. Miller, 268
20. Sullivan, 102
34. Fiala, 38