KITZBUEHEL, Austria Jan. 22, 2004 (USSA)--Norwegian Lasse Kjus nailed the bottom of the Streif Thursday to win a World Cup downhill by .01 over Stephan Eberharter of Austria with Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) completing the podium. Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) was seventh in the race kicking off the festive 64th Hahnenkamm Weekend.
Outdoor Life Network will carry same-day coverage Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with rebroadcasts Sunday at 5 p.m. ET and next Thursday night at 10 ET as Rahlves looks to defend the title he won a year ago.
"It feels great," Rahlves said. "Any time you're on a podium here, or in any downhill—but especially in Kitzbuehel, it's great." His podium duplicated his showing in Kitzbuehel three years ago when he tied for third with Eberharter, shortly before he won the super G gold medal at the 2001 World Championships in St. Anton.
Kjus, in becoming the sixth skier to win in the six DHs this season, reclaimed the World Cup points lead—by six points (over Austrian Beni Raich—with the 15th win of his brilliant career as he posted a time of 1:58.78. Eberharter covered the full-length 3.3K course in 1:58.79 and Rahlves was timed in 1:58.98. Miller finished in 1:59.62 and moved back to fifth in the World Cup points while Bryon Friedman (Park City, UT), in his first visit to Kitzbuehel, was 26th (2:01.11).
Coach: Rahlves "put the pins to it..."
"It was a great day, starting from the top. The course was well prepared, it was hard snow," Rahlves. "I usually ski faster (on the top) but I made a few mistakes."
He said racing aggressively on the upper midsection was the key to the 12th podium of his career. "I felt a little uncomfortable with the tight line at the bottom, but that's what paid off, skiing the way I did on the bottom," Rahlves told reporters.
"He got that right—he really put the pins to it," DH/SG Head Coach John McBride said.
"The guys didn't ski the well (Wednesday after more than two hours in delays) in training and I was a little concerned. We've had so much down time and it's hard to keep your rhythm with the downtime...but they did well today.
"Daron skied so well and I'm really proud of the way Bode and 'Free Dog' went at it. Bode skied like a stud. He had a couple of mistakes but he showed everyone his athletic ability; he laid it out there. And Bryon took another step forward; it's been quite a season for him - he's been gaining fantastic confidence on new hills, and just keeps stepping up," McBride said.
Conditions were consistent throughout the day, the coach said, "although there were a couple of times the light went flat...but the course held up well and it was a good race."
Rahlves found speed at the top...and kept it
"Where I did really well was in Steilhang (upper midsection). I skied super clean. I need to be going really fast going onto the flats," Rahlves explained.
Rahlves said he ran into some flat light "and I started looking too short ahead of myself instead of way down the hill. I was ragged on a few turns..."
The different-winner-every-downhill "is making it exciting in the points," he said; Rahlves is fifth in downhill standings, six points back of Hermann Maier, who was fourth Thursday. His podium gives him more confidence as he looks toward Saturday.
Rahlves anxious for THE race
He congratulated Kjus on his performance, adding, "I hope he can return the favor Saturday" in the Hahnenkamm, ski racing's biggest event.
"I'm always charged up and excited to be skiing this hill. I was ready to put the hammer down and ski aggressively," Rahlves added. "I felt great today—felt clam and ready. I'm super satisfied with the way it turned out...but there's still nothing like winning here, so I'm ready to come back Saturday.
The men run super G Friday. Rahlves, Miller, Friedman, Jake Fiala (Frisco, CO) and Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NYY) will start. McBride said a decision would be made by Thursday night whether to enter a sixth U.S. racer.
Thursday's downhill was the fourth try at staging the race, which already had run into weather problems in three other sites—Bormio, Italy, Chamonix, France, and last weekend in Wengen, Switzerland.