Eberharter wins downhill; Rahlves takes third
While Austrian Stephan Eberharter won his third-straight World Cup race – making it four of six this season –it was the three Americans finishing in the top eight that had the full grandstand at the Birds of Prey finish squawking.
Eberharter, who had the fastest training time Friday, was the fastest out of the gate and made up more time in the flats, as he beat fellow countryman Michael Walchhofer by 0.10 seconds and finished with a time of 1 minute, 40.18 seconds.
Last year’s overall World Cup champion almost seemed ho-hum about his finish.
“I’ve never won here,” the 33-year-old Eberharter said. “It’s a good addition too my other successes.”
American Daron Rahlves, penalized Friday after his training run for an equipment infraction and forced to race 37th after qualifying second Friday, finished third with a clutch display of speed out of a starting spot normally reserved for “other” racers.
“(The starting spot) did matter a little bit,” said Rahlves, who saluted the crowd after his finish. “It was a little bit choppier than it had been. The FIS (Internation Federation of Skiing) is starting to go way too far. They came up with new rules and it seems like I’ve caught the brunt of it for the past few seasons.”
Last week, in Lake Louise, Alberta, Rahlves was penalized for an adjustment to his uniform that didn’t quite coincide with FIS rules. Rahlves was the only member of the U.S. team penalized for equipment Friday. Teammate Marco Sullivan put up the early time to beat and finished with the best World Cup performance of his career, sixth place, two spots ahead of U.S. ace Bode Miller. It was the first time since 1972 three Americans finished in the top 10.
“I had a good start and through the race, I kept it smooth,” Sullivan said. “I just wanted to give the fans a show.”
Austria’s Fritz Strobl took fourth, giving his team three of the top four spots in the race.
Eberharter, meanwhile, is well on his way to a second overall title. He captured a season-opening giant slalom in Solden, Austria, and, after placing eighth in a giant slalom and missing a slalom in Park City, Utah, he won both downhill and super-G races last week in Lake Louise, Canada.
It was Walchhofer who knocked the surprising Sullivan out of first place, nailing the final three jumps with near-perfect form and gaining speed throughout. When he crossed the finish line, he carried with him a .54-second lead.
Then came Eberharter. The Austrian came through the final checkpoint with a half-second lead before slowing in the final three turns. His performance Saturday mimicked his final training run Friday, when he crossed the finish line sideways and still won.
Eberharter will try for four in a row today in the super-G event, which starts at 11 a.m.
“It’s another day, another race,” he said. “I need new luck.”
NOTES: The other American finishers included: Jakub Fiala, a Battle Mountain High School graduate living in Frisco, who placed 23rd; and Scott MacCartney, who placed 41st.
Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.