GIRDWOOD, Alaska March 20, 2004 - Former super G world champion Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) collected the fifth U.S. title of his career Saturday, overcoming softening snow to win the men's super G on Day Two of the Chevrolet U.S. Alpine Championships. Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) was the silver medalist and Jake Fiala (Frisco, CO) was third.
Rahlves, racing at the U.S. championships for the first time in three seasons after injuries sidelined him the last two years - and looking to make-up a bit after being upset Friday in the downhill by World Cup teammate Bryon Friedman (Park City, UT), had a time of 1:08.72. Spencer finished in 1:09.29 and Fiala's bronze-medal time was 1:09.67 in the clear, 12-degree weather.
Andre Horton (Anchorage, AK) was fourth and Jake Zamansky (Aspen, CO) completed the top five in the field of 68. Defending SG gold medalist Bode Miller was 12th while 15 skiers failed to finish; Friedman was one of two racers who missed a gate on the technical, lower half of the course at Alyeska Resort.
Rahlves: "You have to be smart..."
"It's not a traditional super G up top on the flats it is," said Rahlves, SG gold medalist at the 2001 World Championships, "but then you really put some big swings on the turns. You have to be smart tactically. The biggest turns are where it's really soft. You have to be really smart and think ahead.
"It's one of those courses where you can't fully charge. You can't max-out because of conditions..." The soft snow reduced his advantage, which is usually on hard snow and technical courses; "These are the snow conditions where I have the most trouble. You have to plan ahead more," he said.
"You have to work to the finish line. These last five turns are the roughest we had," he said. The super G skied very differently from Friday's downhill where he was third after winning a FIS downhill Thursday. The SG title is his second, along with a downhill championship and two giant slalom titles.
"Definitely, your tempo has to be a lot quicker in super G on this hill. The downhill is really mellow, long gliding. ...It was hard to attack Friday. I can attack turns more than I can attack flats and big blind turns."
"Today, I was sticking my head through panels, slamming through a few of the gates trying to cut the line off," Rahlves explained. "I was definitely wanting to come in here and win both downhill and super G. Yesterday, I came up a little short. It's cool to come up here; it's my first time back in Alaska in a long time - every time I come to Alaska I'm in awe."
Spencer went from "unsure" to silver medalist
Spencer, who deals with chronic back pain, said he tweaked a knee in the downhill, so he was "a little unsure" at the start of the super G. "I hurt my knee a little off one of those big jumps, so I wasn't fired-up, but I got on course and right away everything felt good, so I attacked.
"The top was definitely super G speeds, the skis were running well. From Waterfall (the second of two jumps, located just above a traverse to the drop down to the last section), down to the finish, it's really demanding. Big turns...it keeps coming at you," Spencer said, "but I was able to keep ahead of it most of the time.
"I had a few bobbles in the middle but I really stuck this big last turn and was able to carry good speed all the way through the finish. It was a good, clean run," he said. "Coming off Waterfall was a big lefthand corridor that was really important, and then this big swinger right down to the finish pitch. Both of those set you up for five or six big turns after that."
The men go from speed to technical racing Sunday with slalom. Monday, they complete their Chevrolet championships schedule - the first time the U.S. championships have been at Alyeska since 1981...when there was no super G.