Miller fells Mahre’s mark
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
KITZBUEHEL, Austria ” Bode Miller finally had something to cheer about Sunday at the traditional Hahnenkamm World Cup races.
Earlier this week, he accused organizers of making the famous Streif downhill course much bumpier and dangerous than it already was. He also criticized organizers for disrespecting the 68-year-old history of the event by changing the slalom course.
But on Sunday, Miller won the combined title for the slalom and Saturday’s downhill, which means he is now the most successful American skier ever with 28 World Cup wins, overtaking Phil Mahre.
“It’s a nice record, something you dream about as a kid,” the 30-year-old Miller said. “As a professional skier, you’re more focused on winning each individual race. Before the season, it was my target to break that record, and it’s a really good feeling if you reach your goals.”
Jean-Baptiste Grange earned his fourth win of the season in the slalom race. The 27-year-old Grange, who led after the first leg, finished in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 45.04 seconds.
The Frenchman edged Jens Byggmark, who was fourth after the opening run, by 0.15 seconds. Mario Matt took third, trailing Grange by 0.52 seconds.
Miller finished 14th in the slalom after taking second in the downhill, which earned him the classic combined title at the Hahnenkamm races.
Benjamin Raich was second in the combined and went back to the top of the overall World Cup standings, leading Miller by 29 points.
Miller wants to improve on his technique.
“I have made too many errors,” he said. “But when you look at my split times at the Super-G and the downhill, you see that I should have won them both.”
He had praise for Grange.
“Just incredible, he is the best slalom skier I’ve seen for many years,” Miller said.
Grange was not flawless in the first section of his second run and lost his 0.33-second advantage to Byggmark. In the lower part, Grange accelerated for a strong finish.
“Everything’s going very smooth for me these days,” Grange said. “I am concentrating well and I know that I am a fast skier. Winning in Kitzbuehel is a big moment for me.”
Grange won a slalom in Alta Badia, Italy, in December and a super-combi and a slalom race in Wengen, Switzerland, last week, and extended his lead in the slalom standings in front of Raich.
Grange skipped Saturday’s downhill and, as a result, gained no points for the combined standings.
“I don’t regret that I did not race,” Grange said. “The downhill course was very hard and it had cost me lots of energy. Winning today proves that my decision was the right one.”
Byggmark, a two-time winner in Kitzbuehel last year, took risks in his final run.
“It did not work out completely well, but I am happy with this result,” Byggmark said. “I was nervous coming back here after that great result last year. Without my errors in the first run I think I could have won again.”
Julien Lizeroux was second going into the final run but dropped to fourth for his best career World Cup result.
Matt, and some other skiers with the same equipment supplier, used specially prepared slalom skies with a hole in the front part for a better balance.
“I wore them for the first time in training last Wednesday and it was OK,” Matt said. “I had two extreme errors, otherwise everything would have been possible today.”
Ted Ligety, who faced a 0.74-second deficit, started fast in his second run but lost considerable speed after losing control of a ski at the bumpy upper part of the course. He finished eighth, 1.20 behind Grange.
“That’s an OK result for me,” Ligety said. “Grange is on fire these days. He is invincible.”
Marc Gini, who won a slalom at Reiteralm, Austria, earlier this season, missed a gate in his first run and did not finish.
The men’s World Cup circuit continues Tuesday with a night slalom in Schladming, Austria.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.