Marco calls it a season
Bode Miller had reason to be irked when Wednesday’s World Cup downhill final was scratched from the schedule, denying him an opportunity to overtake leader Didier Cuche of Switzerland. But for Marco Sullivan of Truckee, the cancellation was more of a boon than anything.
“I didn’t have much to gain, other than trying to win the race,” Sullivan said Thursday from Munich, Germany. “I’m still sore from crashing, so it’s a good feeling to have (the season) be over with and have a chance to heel up and get ready for next year.”
Both the men’s and women’s downhill finals in Bormio, Italy, were canceled due to soft snow conditions, and neither will be made up.
Cuche, then, edged Miller by five points, 584-579, for the men’s downhill title. Austrian Michael Walchhofer finished third with 407 points, followed by Sullivan with 278 points and Heel Werner of Italy with 273. Even if Sullivan had won the final race he would have remained in fourth. And if anything, he and Werner may have swapped places.
Plus, after his best season in nine years on the U.S. Ski Team, the 1998 North Tahoe High grad said he is satisfied with his overall performance.
“Yeah, for sure. I made a big jump in the rankings,” said Sullivan, who finished 22nd in the downhill last year. “My goal at the beginning of the year was to make the top 10. So to be fourth, I’m stoked.”
He’s also pleased about avoiding serious injury in any of his four downhill crashes, two of which came in training while the final pair knocked him out of the last two downhill races.
“It’s been kind of a rough couple weeks. My body is pretty beat up,” Sullivan said, explaining that he suffered a deep bruise on his back in the most recent crash, which occurred at Kvitfjell, Norway, on March 3.
Sullivan suspects that he has a broken bone in his hand, and he said he’s been struggling through some “aches and pains,” including bone spurs on his feet.
“You definitely remember every wreck, but I came out of them all walking, so I’m thankful for that,” he said.
While Sullivan earned his first-ever World Cup win at the famed Kandahar in Chamonix, France, in late January, and placed second at Lake Louise, Alberta, in November, he did not score points in four of the nine downhill races. The way he looks at it, that just leaves room to improve.
“I had a real opportunity to get in the top 3 before my crashes. It’s a bummer, but it just motivates me to be more consistent next year,” he said.
This year’s not quite over, though, as Sullivan will try to defend his downhill title at the U.S. Alpine Championship in Alaska on March 22.
After that, he plans to compete in the 23rd annual Arctic Man in Alaska on April 11, then film with Warren Miller in the Alaska backcountry the same month. Last year Sullivan placed second in the Arctic Man, a high-speed, two-person race that involves a skier, a snowmobile and top speeds of up to 86 mph.
“It’s a great time. It’s unique,” Sullivan said of the event, which pays out $10,000 to the winning team. “There’s only one race like it in the world. It’s a lot different (than Alpine racing). To have horsepower pulling you is a cool feeling.”
Sullivan said he will be paired up with pro snowboarder Seth Wescott for his heliskiing adventure. During their two-week window in which to get footage, Sullivan said he’s unsure how he’ll approach the big mountains.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Obviously my strength is to ski big lines fast and fluid. I don’t have as much experience dropping cliffs as some of those other guys, so we’ll see what happens.”
Other than that, Sullivan said he plans to spend much of his summer at his Truckee home when not training with the U.S. Ski Team in New Zealand or Chile.
1. Didier Cuche (SUI) 584
2. Bode Miller (USA) 579
3. Michael Walchhofer (AUT) 407
4. Marco Sullivan (USA) 278
5. Heel Werner (ITA) 273