PARK CITY (USST report) - Hometown favorite Erik Schlopy (Park City), skiing hisbest in 20 months, was almost as hot as the unseasonal weather Friday, producingthe third-fastest second run and finishing fifth in the Chevy Truck America'sOpening. Swiss great Michael Von Gruenigen won his 21st GS - his third in ParkCity - while Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) "threw a shoe" - coming out of his skiswhen his left binding releases about 15 gates into the first run.
ESPN will broadcast coverage of the race Sunday at 2 p.m. EST.
Von Gruenigen, third in the first run, had a two-run time of 2:23.08 withAustrians Christian Mayer and Benjamin Raich 2-3. Schlopy's time was 2:23.45.
Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) was tied for 22nd in the 50-degree weather, under acloudless sky on Park City Mountain Resort's CB's Run. Thomas Vonn (Newburgh,NY) was 27th.
"It's one step forward. It was no Soelden," U.S. Head Coach Phil McNichol said,referring to the season opening GS Oct. 27 on the Rettenbach Glacier aboveSoelden, Austria, when the U.S. Ski Team started eight racers and only Miller -who was fifth - finished.
In the first run, Schlopy came out of the No. 41 start and devoured thewell-rutted course, posting the 11th-fastest time. He said his experience on thepro tour during 1995-98 helped as he overcame the ragged conditions.
"We were riding the wild ride. Yeah, I was back in the 'Dream Machine.' I haveto get that van back," Schlopy said smiling as he referred to the van he used ashe was training on his own while attempting to return to the U.S. Ski Team in1998-99. (When he had a bad day, he called the van 'Death Star.'
"In the first run, conditions definitely dictated how I was gonna ski. I didn'twant to have another Soelden, didn't want a repeat performance. None of the guysdid. So, I said, 'I've got to go for it, but in a smart way.' I was tacticallysmart - I didn't take any big chances," he explained.
"I knew it was gonna be bumpy. It's warm out there. It's not ideal conditions toattack from the back," he said. However, strong course reports from McNichol,Head SL/GS Coach Martin Andersen and finally from Vonn, who had gone downminutes before Schlopy's start, set him up for what he'd find.
"Second run I let it rip where I wanted to but I don't think I was really goingfor it," Schlopy said. "I was tactically very conservative in a lot of areas."
Apart from all the miles he's skied at Park City Mountain Resort, Schlopy - asports ambassador for the resort - said he felt comfortable knowing the way therace crew manicures the course. "They do a great job of putting on the race," hesaid.
McNichol and Andersen said their post-Soelden discussions were well-received,paying off with Friday's dramatically improved results. They knew there was arisk in letting the veteran skiers have extra time off after the 2002 WinterGames, but they felt - even with some ski changes (including Miller, Schlopy andSpencer) and the necessary time for adjusting to new equipment, it was worth thegamble to keep the athletes racing. The unseen speed-bump came with soft snow inEurope in October. In the last two weeks, though, the Ski Team found goodtraining in Colorado and sharpened its skills.
"We got to train on ice," Andersen said, "and it gave our guys confidence intheir skis, especially Erik. One and one-half weeks ago, I was a little bitworried but going into this race but I was really confident he could do well.""You'll see some top-ranked guys, when they get bad conditions, they're thrownall over the hill, but not Erik," Andersen said. "It's nice to have someonecarrying the flag up front when one falls out. I'm very happy."
And Miller? "His ski came off. End of story," Andersen said.
Miller said he had no problems with his left knee, which underwent arthroscopicsurgery a week earlier by Dr. Richard Steadman, who removed several calciumchips. "If you hit the bumps wrong, your ski'll come off," he said.
McNichol added, "I'm of the opinion there were many years we didn't have anyoneleading the way in terms of winning when we had retirements, so we didn't knowhow good we were. And then we came to races and we struggled.
"Now, it's almost as if the guys are struggling on the other end of the spectrum they're so good in training, doing so well against the other nations when wecross-train. Now it's a matter of hitting the pace in the events. With thematurity and the depth we have, the sky's the limit.
"Today was a good day, but it's just the beginning," according to McNichol. ""Ireally believe the guys are gonna take care of business."
The men race slalom Sunday, the final event of the Chevy Truck America'sOpening.
ALPINE WORLD CUP SKIING
Chevy Truck Super Series
Park City, UT - Nov. 22
Place FIS code Name Nation 1st run 2nd run Time Points
1 510318 VON GRUENIGEN Michael SUI 1:11.19 1:11.89 2:23.08 0.00
2 50126 MAYER Christian AUT 1:11.73 1:11.63 2:23.36 1.68
3 50625 RAICH Benjamin AUT 1:11.25 1:12.14 2:23.39 1.86
4 292000 BLARDONE Massimiliano ITA 1:11.10 1:12.30 2:23.40 1.92
5 530703 SCHLOPY Erik USA 1:11.93 1:11.52 2:23.45 2.22
6 500139 NYBERG Fredrik SWE 1:11.40 1:12.24 2:23.64 3.37
7 510030 CUCHE Didier SUI 1:11.51 1:12.23 2:23.74 3.97
8 50024 EBERHARTER Stephan AUT 1:11.01 1:12.98 2:23.99 5.47
9 190236 COVILI Frederic FRA 1:11.80 1:12.20 2:24.00 5.53
10 50360 KNAUSS Hans AUT 1:12.18 1:11.89 2:24.07 5.95
11 510727 DEFAGO Didier SUI 1:11.46 1:12.64 2:24.10 6.13
12 291421 RIEDER Arnold ITA 1:12.35 1:11.93 2:24.28 7.21
13 100115 GRANDI Thomas CAN 1:12.17 1:12.21 2:24.38 7.81
13 510747 GRUENENFELDER Tobias SUI 1:12.70 1:11.68 2:24.38 7.81
15 292120 SIMONCELLI Davide ITA 1:12.99 1:11.47 2:24.46 8.29
16 560050 PAVLOVCIC Uros SLO 1:12.70 1:11.82 2:24.52 8.66
17 50149 STROBL Josef AUT 1:12.41 1:12.12 2:24.53 8.72
18 50124 SCHIFFERER Andreas AUT 1:11.98 1:12.58 2:24.56 8.90
19 350032 BUECHEL Marco LIE 1:13.20 1:11.42 2:24.62 9.26
20 291768 ROBERTO Alessandro ITA 1:12.38 1:12.30 2:24.68 9.62
21 292250 SCHIEPPATI Alberto ITA 1:13.08 1:11.69 2:24.77 10.16
22 50451 GRUBER Christoph AUT 1:12.36 1:12.45 2:24.81 10.40
22 50271 SCHILCHEGGER Heinz AUT 1:12.47 1:12.34 2:24.81 10.40
22 532188 SPENCER Dane USA 1:12.95 1:11.86 2:24.81 10.40
25 180212 UOTILA Sami FIN 1:12.30 1:12.60 2:24.90 10.94
25 290705 HOLZER Patrick ITA 1:13.22 1:11.68 2:24.90 10.94
27 532028 VONN Thomas USA 1:12.88 1:12.24 2:25.12 12.26
28 380260 KOSTELIC Ivica CRO 1:12.19 1:13.29 2:25.48 14.43