Rahlves back at Birds of Prey, as a spectator | VailDaily.com

Rahlves back at Birds of Prey, as a spectator

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – On a day like Saturday, he still has the itch. Otherwise, he’s good.

After getting in some runs at Golden Peak in Vail, two-time Birds of Prey downhill champion Daron Rahlves was in the crowd at Beaver Creek Saturday to watch the race which helped him become the United States’ best male speed skier.

“On days like this, I miss it,” Rahlves said. “It’s a lot of hard work. It takes a ton of commitment and preparation, a lot of time. That’s the stuff that’s kind of easy to forget about. But these are the days the stomach turns over. It’s hard to watch. I’m not much of a watcher. If I trained a little bit, I think I still could be in there.”

Few would doubt it. Rahlves broke through at Birds of Prey in 2003, becoming the first American in 19 years to win a downhill on home snow. If anyone thought it was a fluke, Bode Miller and Rahlves went 1-2 in the 2004 downhill.

Rahlves cemented his legend in Beaver Creek lore, by calling his finish before the 2005 downhill here, saying he and Miller would switch places on the podium. Rahlves did, indeed, flip-flop with Miller.

Big D enjoyed the race Saturday and got on the course.

“I just took a slip down it to see what it was like. I was impressed,” Rahlves said. “Beaver Creek always sets the best racing surface possible. To see three guys on the podium within 4-(hundredths of a second), that’s a good race. It shows the level of competition. A lot of guys are skiing really well. And I think the only guy who didn’t make a mistake was (winner Carlo) Janka. That guy was super-solid from top to bottom.”

Rahlves retired from alpine skiing after the winner of 2006, but he’s still no stranger to the slopes. He’s now competing in World Cup skicross. Rahlves, like his former alpine competitors, is gearing up for the Olympic Games in February.

He’s off to Telluride for a five-day camp and then heads to Europe later this month for the start of the season.

“I’m feeling good on skis,” Rahlves said. “It’s just getting used to being around other guys at that speed, skiing through terrain. I’ve got Casey Puckett and a few other guys to charge down the hill with next week.

“I can explore more of the sport now. It’s not just racing. It’s skicross. It’s freeskiing. I’m feeling healthy and still strong. I’m loving it.”

Sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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