Birds of Prey flashback: Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves
Fifteen years ago, Rahlves calls his shot
Wednesday at Birds of Prey is usually a training day.
The speed studs of the World Cup would be hitting the course today – some reminding themselves with places like The Brink, Pumphouse, Golden Eagle and The Abyss. The newer racers would be pointing the tips down and checking out the noted course.
From an American perspective, even without COVID-19 canceling the event, 2020 Birds of Prey was likely looking a little sparse. The cupboard appeared a little barren last year, but Tommy Ford sort of came from nowhere to win the giant slalom last winter. He was the first American man to win at Birds of Prey since Ted Ligety took gold at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships GS.
It was a nice reminder that Birds of Prey is the American stop on the white circus and that the red, white and blue has been a force at these races for years. After Austria’s Hermann Maier spent the early years of Birds of Prey making it his “living room,” as was joked at the time, the Americans took over.
The same weekend that Maier won his record and final eighth Birds of Prey race, the 2003 downhill, Daron Rahlves became the first American to win on the “new” course, capturing a downhill moved from Val d’Isere, France (no snow in 2003).
After seeing the U.S. Ski Team blanked during the 1999 worlds in Vail and Beaver Creek and a procession of Europeans winning on an American snow until 2003 in Beaver Creek, Rahlves started an unprecedented run of success at Birds of Prey. He came down in 1 minute, 39.59 seconds, which remains the course record and will likely stay so.
By 2005, 15 years ago, Birds of Prey was the U.S. Ski Team’s race. In 2004, Bode Miller had supplanted Rahlves atop the downhill podium here with Big D in second. Before the 2005-06 season, Rahlves called his shot, predicting that he would beat Bode at Birds of Prey.
Never doubt Daron. He beat Bode by 0.27 seconds in 2005, rearranging the U.S. Ski Team’s 1-2 punch atop the podium. For good measure, Miller and Rahlves flipped places in the giant slalom the next day. It’s hard to figure out what was more amazing: Rahlves finishing second in a GS or Miller’s ride that day.
Miller’s first giant-slalom run that day was quintessential Bode – he was up, down and all over the place, at points sitting back on his skis, yet still wicked fast. Hollywood would have rejected the script for being too corny.
Rahlves ended up retiring after the 2006 Olympics and World Cup season, while Miller kept going, winning the 2006 and 2011 downhills here and took second in a GS as late as 2013 at Beaver Creek. Miller’s last race, in fact, came during the 2015 world super-G, when he had a yard sale in true Bode style.
In 2017, Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley Foundation named parts of Birds of Prey for the duo – the section between Peregrine and Russi’s Ride is Rahlves’ Roll; and the sequence from Golden Eagle to Harrier is Miller’s Revenge.
While the 2005 Birds of Prey races were best known for “The Bode and Daron Show,” Beaver Creek had four races that season. In the super-G, an Austrian youngster named Hannes Reichelt earned his first World Cup win. While the Birds of Prey super-G can produce some one-shot wonders, Reichelt’s win was a big moment.
Now 40 and still on tour, Reichelt’s won 13 times on tour. The Austrian ended up on the top of the podium three more times in super-G at Beaver Creek with World Cup wins in 2007 and 2014 as well as the 2015 worlds.
Birds of Prey 2005 ended with a rare slalom. For the record, Italy’s Giorgio Rocca won, followed by France’s Stephane Tissot. In third place was Ted Ligety. That turned out to be the first podium of the Park City, Utah, racer’s career.
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