Bode Miller wins World Cup downhill
Vail, CO Colroado
BORMIO, Italy ” Bode Miller won the grueling Stelvio downhill Saturday for his first World Cup victory since breaking away from the U.S. Ski Team.
While the other favorites found trouble, Miller had a near-perfect run and covered the 2.03-mile course in 2 minutes, 0.57 seconds. The victory was the 26th of Miller’s career, putting him within one win of matching Phil Mahre’s record of 27 U.S. victories.
“It’s a miracle really,” Miller said. “If you want to make it down you’ve got to take it easy on some of the curves. I just tried to hold on at the end. I was out of gas.”
Andreas Buder of Austria was 0.45 seconds behind, and Jan Hudec of Canada was third, 0.54 back.
After clashing with the U.S. federation over team rules, Miller decided to train and race on his own this season. Complying with International Ski Federation rules, he still wears a U.S. uniform when he skis, but puts on his own jacket with his personal sponsors as soon as he takes off his skis.
Miller hired John McBride from the U.S. team to be his head coach this season and brought in former U.S. coaches Forest Carey and Mike Kenney. Carey skied with Miller at the Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine, and Kenney is his uncle.
Miller calls his breakaway squad “Team America.”
McBride arrived in Bormio on Friday night after missing the last few races for the birth of his child.
“I think they were getting ready to kill me if I didn’t win soon,” Miller said of his team.
Among the pre-race favorites, Didier Cuche finished fourth. Top challenger Michael Walchhofer got thrown off course midway through his run and nearly crashed into the fence. He finished in a tie for 19th. Marco Buechel, another contender, also lost control and did not finish.
Walchhofer still holds a 230-204 lead over Cuche in the downhill standings. Miller moved to third with 183 points.
Andrej Jerman and Erik Guay, who both excelled in training, finished fifth and eighth respectively. Jerman was on course to win before losing more than a second on the lower section.
Benjamin Raich finished 28th to retain a 524-503 lead over Cuche in the overall standings. Miller jumped from seventh to fourth overall, with 406 points.
The Stelvio trails only Wengen, Switzerland, for the longest course on the World Cup circuit.
Unlike Wengen, though, the Stelvio bumps and jerks skiers from start to finish. The ski bottoms remain completely attached to the snow for only 12 seconds of the average 120-second run. The rest of the time, skiers are on their edges changing direction and executing turns and jumps.
Miller’s last victory came in Wengen nearly a year ago.
“I tend to do better on the really tough courses,” Miller said. “I focus more.”
Miller won both the downhill and super-G here at the 2005 World Championships.
“I’ve always liked this course,” he said. “It really challenges me.”
Hudec won the silver medal in downhill at last season’s worlds in Are, Sweden, and then won the opening downhill this season in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“This is really special, because Bormio is not a glider’s course. The last 45 seconds you have to have it here,” Hudec said, pointing to his heart.
Miller becomes the fourth American to post a top-three finish in the four downhills this season. The other three ” Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and Scott Macartney ” each had problems Saturday.
Sullivan finished 12th but could have been in the top 10 if not for a major error midway through his run that cost him a half-second. Nyman skied far off course and finished last and Macartney missed a gate and did not finish.
The Americans each congratulated Miller on the win.
Bormio is the site of the World Cup finals in March, meaning Miller will have another opportunity to win here.
“I hope so,” he said. “But I don’t know if I can do that again.”