Miller solo in American showing
BEAVER CREEK – Americans only get one crack at the World Cup on home snow, and only one U.S. representative competing in Thursday’s super-G race was pleased with his result.After a tactical error that caused him to drop speed through the flats on the first half of the course, and subsequently cost him any speed he could earn back, Bode Miller was pleased with his finish time of 1 minute, 13.64 seconds for second place behind winner Stephan Goergl of Austria (1:13.40). Miller raced into the first split with a time of 20.44, already behind Goergl, who reached the interval at 20.31. At the beginning of the second split, near the island of trees by The Pumphouse, was where Miller said he lost momentum. His second interval was 41.16 – more than a half-second off Goergl’s 40.56.Not the best cookies
A lot of factors played into Miller’s “mistake” on course. One aspect was death cookies. Death cookies: the balls of ice formed when snow gets wet than freezes into clumps. Miller said the cookies were on course Thursday after Wednesday’s downhill course was slipped and the junky snow was inadvertently pushed onto the SG course. “That affects that split directly – it affects you for the rest of that split; but also, you just never get that speed back,” Miller said of his poor maneuvering through the cookies. “It’s all flat after that. Even if I’m skiing better than everyone else, you still keep losing the whole time. You can be gaining speed, but you’re still losing time. It was a frustrating place to have a mistake. The line was fine that I was on. I set up pretty well. Then, it was right where the snow changes. It was a misjudgment on my part. The snow goes from really grippy, chalky snow on top – which is great for turning – then, on the side hill, where I made the mistake, everything happens really quick because you’re cutting down. Past the gate, I got into the death cookies.”Nonetheless, Miller said he was happy with the rest of his run and felt lucky to take second place. “When I was in the course and not making mistakes, I was skiing really, really well – better than I did in Lake Louise in the super-G” he said, referring to his first World Cup super-G victory Sunday in Alberta. “I wasn’t psyched with the skiing I did out there, and to come out with a win was phenomenal. To come out with a second place here, I’d say was even more impressive to me, considering the mistake I made. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to be 10th or 15th.”How about 17th? Daron Rahlves was the second American to finish, but much farther back in the results than he or anyone else would have expected – 17th, with a time of 1:14.56.
Losing the lineHe had issues near The Pumphouse as well, and afterwards couldn’t keep the line he wanted. Rahlves lost a good bit of time between the third interval and the finish. He arrived at the third interval at 53.65, actually ahead of Miller (53.76), but on the home stretch, where Miller was able to make up time, Rahlves lost it. Over the Golden Eagle Jump, he lost some time in aerodynamics by flapping around, then landed off-course.”I’m fine in jumps. I’ve just got to get going in the right direction,” he said. “When I went into the air I was about 10 feet to the right, where the tightest line I could pull off was just so far off. I just gotta get going in the right direction.”
From Rahlves, the next American in line Thursday was Dane Spencer, who finished 32nd in 1:15.61, followed by Scott Macartney 33rd (1:15.64) and former Ski Club Vail protégé Jakub Fiala, who tied for 39th with Borek Zakouril, the lone competitor racing for the Czech Republic (1:16.08). Fiala, (who is originally from then-Czechoslovakia) had high hopes coming into Thursday’s race, especially considering that he nailed his best World Cup result ever on the Birds of Prey super-G course last year with a 13th-place finish. However, an ankle injury during fall training stunted his prep time this season, and he said his speed is not returning quickly.”I just don’t have the speed right now,” he said. “It’s just been tough to get that flow back. Last year, I had a much better prep period and just a lot more confidence coming in. It’s kind of embarrassing to be that slow in front of the hometown crowd.”Off-SchlopeErik Schlopy, whose most noteworthy super-G results were his U.S. Championship gold medals in 2001 and 1992, is returning to the Cup circuit this season after a bad crash that laid him out for almost the entirety of last season. Although Schlopy’s first split time (20.84) ranked him among the top-10 finishers, a slew of mistakes cost him dearly, and he finished in a disappointing 48th place.
“I was really disappointed,” he said. “I had a really good run up top. I made a mistake that wasn’t recoverable down here. I couldn’t get my speed back. I could have just skied off-course, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I knew I’d lost all my speed. Until that point, I skied well and aggressive, and I’m excited about that, because if I can ski that way in a super -G, I can start scoring good points and go from there.”Schlopy, who has several giant slalom podiums under his belt, will attack the GS course Saturday at Birds of Prey.As to today’s downhill, Bryon Friedman will be the first American to start in No. 5 position, followed by Miller (No. 17), Rahlves (No. 31), Macartney (47), Justin Johnson (48), Fiala (56) and Jeffrey Harrison (60).”I’m really psyched,” Miller said of today’s downhill. “I’ll go out there with really good confidence, knowing where I need to ski and how I need to ski to be fast. It’s really hard for me in super-G to go out and inspect the course once and put down a really great run. In downhill, with the training run (in which Miller finished third Tuesday), it’s a whole different story.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.