Rahlves clinches all-time best U.S. World Cup finish
Daron Rahlves didn’t get the win he wanted over the weekend in Garmisch, Germany, but a third place finish – his sixth podium of the season – put him in the U.S. record books. With one race remaining, Rahlves is second in the downhill standings, recording the best U.S. men’s season-long World Cup downhill finish ever.
On Sunday, the US didn’t fair any better and Rahlves only finished eighth.
In the super G, Rahlves finished at 1:16.45, good enough for eighth, while Liechtenstein’s Marco Buechel beat out Eberharter.
Austria’s Stephan Eberharter survived a rugged downhill which claimed seven of the top 30 Saturday to win and clinch the World Cup downhill title in Garmisch. Rahlves, the pre-race favorite after dominating three days of downhill training, was third, 1.30 seconds behind Eberharter. Swiss Didier Cuche was second.
Only two American men have ever cracked the top-three in the grueling downhill battle. Bill Johnson finished third in 1984, and AJ Kitt was third in 1991. Rahlves’ previous best finish was 10th in 2000 when he won the final two downhills in Kvitfjell, Norway, the one remaining stop on the 2003 tour.
The win Sunday was Eberharter’s sixth of the year. It was also Rahlves’ sixth downhill podium of the year with two wins, clinching second for the Hahnenkamm champion, his best season-long finish ever.
Rahlves, starting 30th, taking himself out of title contention in the first section of the downhill.
“I made a really big mistake at the top,” he said. “It was probably one of the toughest today, especially after doing three training runs. I think Eberharter was smart to just do two training runs. On this kind of hill it tears you up pretty quick.
“I was fighting a lot at the bottom to just stay up and then the last turn was really hard. It was really dark, bumpy, hard, fast and slick.
“But to be on the podium is great. Although I knew I could win this one today. I was thinking about coming out here and skiing fast but after I made that one big mistake at the top I had to really push it hard and I used a lot of energy in the middle of the course trying to go super straight. I put everything I had into that run and I’m satisfied with my effort but disappointed with my mistake.”
“It’s outstanding – I’m proud of the boy,” said U.S. Ski Team Head Downhill Coach John McBride. “Everyone realized he had an opportunity to win, but it would have been really hard to win today.”
After the disappointment of the World Championships, Rahlves left St. Moritz after the giant slalom to relax a few days in Austria, including a day in Kitzbuehel where local officials unveiled his Hahnenkamm champion gondola.
It was, more or less, a rugged day for the Americans. Squaw’s Marco Sullivan, starting 20th, waited over 10 minutes for fence repair after the previous racer went down. Sullivan overcame an early mistake to put himself into contention before going out on the bottom.
The U.S. Ski Team remained third in the Nation’s Cup – both overall and for the men – behind Austria and Switzerland.
Rahlves, meanwhile, will get a break for some relaxation and powder skiing back home at Sugar Bowl, the first honest break from training and racing since early October.
“It’s going to be nice to go home and get a break, go to Sugar Bowl and do some skiing and some training and get myself ready for the last push in Norway,” he said.
“I think maybe I’ll get on the dirt bike and totally get away from everything. I totally need that to get fresh. This last week I went to Kitzbuehel and went powder skiing. I came here and was having fun; just going out for the feeling, not getting all caught up and thinking about racing all the time. It’s good to go home and get refreshed. It’s good therapy for me.”
The men’s speed squad now gets a break before the World Cup Finals, with technical skiers heading to Korea and Japan for two weekends of GS and slalom.
After that, it’s off to Norway for the World Cup finals in Lillehammer, March 12-16.
Rahlves sits in fifth place for the overall points standings with 587. Miller is second with 967, behind Eberharter’s 1,145 points. Sullivan is in the middle of the pack with 136.