Americans nab top two spots in downhill race
Americans Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller claimed the top two steps of the Birds of Prey Downhill podium for a second year in a row.
It proved to be a case of dejà vu, only different Friday, Dec. 2 in Beaver Creek as the U.S. Ski Team served notice that they continue to be a major force in World Cup skiing.
However the steps were reversed this year as Rahlves, the 32-year-old from Sugar Bowl, Calif. claimed the victory by 27-hundredths of a second over Miller, the 28-year-old New Hampshire native. Austria’s Hans Grugger place third, 34-hundredths off the American’s pace.
One year ago, it was Miller who posted the Birds of Prey Downhill win, while Rahlves earned the runner-up spot. The victory served as a springboard for Miller’s run to the overall World Cup title, the first American in 22 years to secure the season-long honor.
As with Birds of Prey Super G on Thursday, Dec. 1, Mother Nature again made her presence felt, as light snow and a pesky fog bank forced a number of weather-related delays. However, once the competition resumed, the majority of the field enjoyed good visibility and excellent racing conditions.
The outlook for actually getting the race in seemed less than promising Thursday evening as the weather forecast called for a major Pacific storm to hit the area Friday morning. However, organizers were able to hit a window of calm at race time, allowing the competition to go forward.
Rounding out the top five were Austria’s defending Olympic Downhill champion Fritz Strobl in fourth and Switzerland’s Bruno Kernen in fifth.
Other American finishes on the day included Steven Nyman of Sundance, Utah in 23rd spot, Kevin Francis of Altamont, New York in 42nd and Justin Johnson of Park City, Utah in 45th.
Competition at the 2005 Visa Birds of Prey continues Saturday with World Cup Giant Slalom, while Men’s Slalom will round out the week of racing on Sunday.
The 2005 Visa Birds of Prey World Cup Race Week is a project of the Vail Valley Foundation. For additional information on the Birds of Prey race or the Foundation, contact (970) 949-1999 or visit vvf.org.