Rahlves wins downhill in Sestriere, Italy
SESTRIERE, Italy (March 10) – Daron Rahlves, the winningest American man in World Cup downhill annals, opened World Cup Finals on Wednesday by collecting his sixth DH victory and clinching second place in the discipline standings again.
Rahlves, who had won the Chevy Truck Birds of Prey downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo., earlier this season and two super Gs, nailed the bottom of the 3.3K Kandahar speed run to finish in 1:51.88.
“I’m super stoked. This is the way I wanted to end the season,” said Rahlves, a Green Mountain Valley School (Vt.) grad who won Sunday’s super G in Kvitfjell, Norway.
Rahlves took it cautiously at the top of the course, picked up speed through the middle and won with precise turns and speed on the bottom.
“I found the right line and skied the right way to take it,” Rahlves said.
Second place went to Austria’s Olympic champion Fritz Strobl (1:51.98), with Stephan Eberharter of Austria – who has won the last two overall World Cup championships and three straight World Cup DH titles, in third place (1:52.01).
Hermann Maier of Austria and Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) both finished out of the points, which go to only the top 15 finishers at Finals, increasing the drama in their duel for the overall title.
Maier retains the overall points lead at 1,165, but Eberharter moved back past Miller into second, just 22 points behind (1,143) while Miller is third (1,098), Austrian Benjamin Raich fourth (1,063) and Rahlves fifth (928). Eberharter took his third DH title with 831 points; for the second year in a row, Rahlves was No. 2 at 627.
Weary after three months on the road, including being sick for three weeks after winning the super G in Kitzbuehel, Rahlves took a break after St. Anton, Austria, in mid-February. He returned to the Lake Tahoe region to be with his wife Michelle, relax and see his friends.
“I wanted to stay home. I didn’t want to come back. There’s nothing like being home, but I figured, ‘Okay, I’ve got to get back on the road and finish the World Cup strong.'”
At the 1997 Worlds in Sestriere, he recalled, he skied off-course at the sixth gate because the blind rolls on the course make it an extra-tricky run. The key to doing well Thursday in super G, where he’s second to Maier going into the final SG, will be a good inspection “and skiing smart.”
Eberharter’s podium and no points for Maier or Miller tightened the race for the overall. Maier is after his fourth overall championship; Eberharter, who has talked of retiring after this season, is seeking his third overall in a row; Miller is chasing his first overall, his first GS crown.
World Cup Finals are restricted to the top 25 skiers in a discipline plus 400-points scorers and the world junior champion.
The last four races of the alpine season are being staged in Sestriere, the 1987 FIS World Alpine Championships host and the alpine site for the 2006 Olympics. All races also are available for online webcasting at http://www.alpinerace.com.