Bode wins super-G in Italy
VAL GARDENA, Italy ” With or without a good night’s sleep, Bode Miller is still winning ski races.
The American won a super-giant slalom by a large margin Friday, racing to his 23rd
World Cup victory and second in two weeks. Afterward, he again criticized U.S. team rules that don’t allow him to sleep in his motor home.
The U.S. team instituted a rule this season requiring skiers to sleep in the team hotel rather than personal RVs. The rule appears designed to rein in Miller, who left the Turin Olympics last winter with no medals but plenty of criticism for his late-night partying.
“My team is sabotaging me a little bit by not letting me sleep in my motor home,” Miller said.
He certainly appeared alert on the Saslong course, skiing an error-free run in his fluid and relaxed style. He won in 1 minute, 32.35 seconds, with a massive 0.64-second advantage over Christoph Gruber of Austria.
Canada’s John Kucera was third, 0.73 back.
Didier Cuche of Switzerland was fourth, 0.78 behind, and Aksel Lund Svindal of
Norway finished fifth and retained the overall World Cup lead.
Miller had never finished better than fourth here, but thin snow cover made the course better suited to his style.
“The way it is now is the toughest I’ve ever seen it,” Miller said. “I knew if I didn’t make any mistakes today I had a better chance to win here than ever before. When I got to the finish line I wasn’t surprised I was in the lead.”
Gruber wasn’t surprised, either.
“We all know that if Bode skis a perfect run he can be unbeatable,” the Austrian said. “So it was OK for me to be 64 hundredths back.”
Miller said he has a device that measures how much sleep he gets. He said he averages five hours in the hotel, compared to 7 1/2 to 8 hours in his trailer.
Miller said that if he continues to sleep poorly, he will take up the issue with the team.
U.S. men’s coach Phil McNichol said the problem isn’t where Miller sleeps, but rather “participating with the team and not being reclusive.”
McNichol said he hadn’t spoken with Miller about the issue, adding that the national federation was responsible.
“If Bode and the federation get to the point where he’s productive and participating with the team, maybe they can sit down. I think there’s always a balance between discipline and flexibility,” McNichol told The Associated Press. “He’s being very mature and professional about it.”
The victory moved Miller closer to Phil Mahre’s U.S. record of 27 World Cup wins.
The best previous U.S. results in Val Gardena were third-place showings by Mike Lafferty in 1972 and AJ Kitt in 1992.
“This was one of the few places in my tenure where we’d been skunked,” said McNichol, who became head coach after the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.
Miller, who won a downhill in Beaver Creek on Dec. 1, is the first skier on the men’s circuit with two victories this season. He could have won more but failed to finish after leading the opening legs of a super-combi and giant slalom in Beaver Creek.
“It has been a frustrating start to the season,” Miller said. “The mistakes that I’ve made have been really costly.”
Kucera won the season opening super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, and retained the discipline leader’s red bib.
“I hope to keep it for more races,” Kucera said. “Wearing the red bib, you got to go fast.”
Austria’s Hermann Maier was the last top skier who had a chance to beat Miller. The Austrian was only 0.06 seconds off the American’s pace at the first checkpoint but missed a gate near the end of his run and was disqualified.
The powerhouse Austrian team has not won a race since Benjamin Raich took the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, more than a month ago.
Hans Grugger, the Austrian who won the super-G here last year, also skied off course. And Michael Walchhofer made a mistake midway through his run after a fast split.
Sweden’s Patrik Jaerbyn and Switzerland’s Ambrosi Hoffmann and Juerg Gruenenfelder fell. Jaerbyn appeared fine. Hoffmann hit his head and Gruenenfelder bruised both legs and his back. Both will be out a week, the Swiss team said.
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