Albrecht gets first Cup win | VailDaily.com
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Albrecht gets first Cup win

Shane Macomber/Vail DailySwitzerland's Daniel Albrecht takes home gold in the men's super combined Thursday at Beaver Creek on the Birds of Prey race course with an total time of 2 minutes, 0.26 seconds. It was his first World Cup win.
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BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Thursday at Birds of Prey was a day of firsts in more ways than one.

Switzerland’s Daniel Albrecht won his first World Cup race, taking the super combined in a time of 2 minutes, 0.26 seconds. France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange took the firstpodium climb of his career, 0.67 seconds behind Albrecht.

While Albrecht won the super combi at Worlds in Are, Sweden, last winter and Grange was third in slalom as well there, very little beats the one’s first win or podium on the regular circuit.

“I think everyone who wins a World Cup has a good feeling,” Albrecht said. “I knew when I had a good downhill, I could go for the podium. For me, it’s difficult for me to say, ‘OK, I go for the gold.’ But I had a good feeling. I like the slopes and the snow here.”

“It’s my first podium, aside from my World Championship podium, and I was anxious to get it,” Grange said. “I had two fourth places in slalom (one earlier this month and one last year). It’s good it actually came in the combined because it’s more disciplines.”

Grange’s sizzling slalom of 45.13 seconds vaulted him from 22nd after the downhill to second, and knocked American Bode Miller (2:01.28) off the podium and into fourth.

Norway’s Lars Elton Myhre had a career-best fifth place in 1:14.36. Silvan Zurbriggen (sixth) and Didier Defago (ninth) made it three for Switzerland in the top 10. The Americans also turned the trick with Miller, Ted Ligety (eighth) and T.J. Lanning (10th). Rainer Schoenfelder represented Austria in seventh.

‘It was good’

As often happens in the super combined, Albrecht slipped under the radar. The home crowd was buzzing about Americans Steven Nyman in second and Miller in fourth after the morning downhill with Albrecht sandwiched between the two.

Realistically with Switzerland’s Didier Cuche winning the downhill portion, followed by Nyman ” both downhill specialists ” Albrecht was in a prime spot to claim the race. Cuche ended up running the slalom in 49.32 seconds, well off the pace, and Nyman was an understandable DNF.

Like most in the morning, Albrecht lost some time on the bottom half of the course, but was 2-hundredths of a second ahead of Miller, who seemed to be his closest capable competition, going into slalom.

Albrecht tied for third with Bank for the third-fastest time in the slalom (46.20) and felt quietly confident on the hot seat.

“I thought in the finish, ‘OK, it was good.’ There were a few good guys behind (me),” Albrecht said. “I knew that they could ski really, really fast in the slalom. I thought I had a good run also in the slalom.”

And then Grange gave Albrecht a scare. The Frenchman hammered his slalom run, making up more than a second of Albrecht’s 1.74 lead.

“He was killing (it), nearly perfect,” Albrecht said of Grange. “I thought no one behind him could ski faster. That was the moment I knew it.”

Photo by Preson Utley/Vail Daily

Czech Ondrej Bank flies off the Red Tail Jump Thursday during the Birds of Prey World Cup super combined at Beaver Creek. He earned his first podium with a third-place finish.

Preson Utley/Vail Daily

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Lightning

Grange seemed too far back to make a run at the podium. While no one expected Cuche to have a big showing in slalom ” he raced in the super combi primarily as a training run “Grange was still a full 2.3 seconds off the lead.

But he liked his chances.

“I knew I wasn’t very far off after the downhill,” Grange said. “It was my best downhill since I started the combined, and I told myself I could really do something and I let it all go in the slalom run to go get the podium.”

He did so, hopping 20 racers, and knocked Bank down to bronze and Miller off the podium altogether.

For Miller, it was a much better performance than last year’s super combi at Beaver Creek, when he was the last racer to go and blew a 2.04-second lead, losing to Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.

While Miller finished both runs ” a 50-50 proposition for him during the last four years here ” he was not to happy afterwards.

“I was awesome to run, even if you ski badly. I made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “(In the downhill), I was on my side twice, once on my right side, once on my left side. I was way off the line. The second time I slid was quite bad, but they both cost me. The bottom I skied OK. … The downhill was just not rolling, on line. … The slalom, on the other hand, was just straight bad.”

In the Bank

Meanwhile, Bank was pleased with his first World Cup podium. In retrospect, it’s not surprising it came at Birds of Prey. His best result to date on the tour was a sixth place finish here in last year’s super combi.

Like Grange, he felt the hill’s technical aspects benefited him, helping him through the downhill.

“The hill is very technical,” Bank said. “Also, I don’t feel so good on the flat parts, so I like this bottom part. The snow feels nice. … For two years, I can imagine that I can be in the top 10. Now I am on the podium, so it’s very nice.”

His podium is a big step for the Czech National Team, but he said he didn’t expect to be received like a conquering rock star when he returns to his small home town of Dukla Liberec.

“Rock star, no,” he said to laughter. “I think a few people will be happy. I am from a small village. I think it will be nice coming home.”

Birds of Prey continues today at 11 a.m. with the downhill.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

Birds of Prey

Today

Downhill, 11 a.m.

Defending champion: Bode Miller (USA)

Saturday

Super-G, 11 a.m.

Defending champion (2005): Stephan Goergl (AUT)

Sunday

Giant slalom

First run, 9:45 a.m.

Second run, 12:45 p.m.

Defending champion: Massimiliano Blardone (ITA)


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