Rahlves caps solid weekend with 12th place in super-G; Fiala finishes with career best
Daron Rahlves was just happy to get down to the bottom of the hill on Sunday on the Birds of Prey World Cup super-G.
After a frantic morning rush of trying to make it to the start gate on time, and in proper racing attire, following the announcement of one-minute intervals between racers just before the race started, Rahlves managed to kick out of the gate in one piece and finish in twelfth place at 1 minute, 14.17 seconds – his first super-G finish at Beaver Creek in four years.
It was a strong conclusion to the weekend for Rahlves, who was the first American ever to win the Birds of Prey downhill on Friday and had a solid fourth-place finish in Saturday’s race.
“I just kind of got in there a little rushed in the start today and didn’t have time to get into my normal relaxed state,” said Rahlves. “I was just laughing that I made it across the finish line. It was one of those runs where I could have gone out like five different times, and could have crashed and gotten hurt. I was just glad to stay on my feet today.”
The attrition numbers were high for the fast, open course, coated in flat light with hanging clouds overhead and a steady snowfall coming down. Fourteen of the 60 racers on Saturday did not finish, including Americans Bode Miller – his third DNF in three days – and Thomas Vonn.
Rahlves said that the toughest section was coming off the fast top pitch and then trying to make a sharp right turn before The Pumphouse, the section of the course where Miller missed a gate.
“It was a really tough set and I was just not really prepared,” said Rahlves. “There were a few spots where I had to step around gates, and I almost hooked my inside tip.
“It was really, really fast on top – you just get motoring. I was coming into one section really quick and it just seemed like the same kind of turn as a downhill, a really sharp dip with compression on the left foot, and I came over and lost the purchase on the edge and just went way out wide and almost missed a gate at The Pumphouse. I lost so much time there.”
Aside from another disappointing showing from Miller, it was a strong overall day for the Americans as Battle Mountain alum Jakub Fiala, now of Breckenridge, earned his best career finish in thirteenth place (1:14.23) and Scott Macartney earned his first World Cup points of the year by finishing 26th (1:15.86).
Fiala was the first skier of the day, and stayed among the top three before the ninth racer, Norway’s Bjarne Solbakken took the lead and knocked him into fourth.
Solbakken held onto the lead for his first World Cup win with a time of 1:13.05.
“It’s tough to go first because you don’t really know,” said Fiala. “I had some problems down below, a couple of turns where I dumped some speed, but I think I showed the coaches and everyone today that I’m skiing as well as anyone. There were a couple of key sections that were tough. It’s a super fine line in super-G, pushing the limits with only one inspection, but not knowing where the bad spots were. Some key turns I would have liked to know about.”
Macartney was pleased with picking up his first five World Cup points of 2003 by finishing in the top 30. Racing in the bottom of the order at 56, right after Vonn barreled through a gate flag and was disqualified, Macartney said that he was aware of the tough conditions, but skied at full go anyway.
“I don’t think you can ski cautious, because if you ski cautious, you are just going to get blown out,” said Macartney. “You have to give the course respect, but still attack it. It’s kind of a fine line. If you go for too much, then you might get kicked out, but you have to attack. Otherwise, you’re going to let the course ski you and kick you right out. I was pretty happy to put one down, in the conditions and given how the course was.”
U.S. men’s alpine coach Phil McNichol was pleased overall for the weekend, but was still concerned about Miller’s inability to finish a race.
“I’m at a loss to tell you the truth,” said McNichol. “The section coming into The Pumphouse was a challenge, and he came down and executed it perfectly. He just dove in on this right-footed turn that caught a lot of people.
“They caught it because they were in trouble going in there. He was in fine shape. He just cut the line off, and couldn’t get back to the next gate. I was just shocked. He came into that section, having done a great job in a very difficult entry, and then he had just, I don’t know, a lapse of focus and decided, “Hey that was not so bad. Let’s jump in on this, and get it on,’ and boom, he was out.”
Still, McNichol said that he is not in panic mode yet, even though Miller’s overall standing dropped from first to seventh during the three days of races.
“It’s a long season, I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over it,” said McNichol. “I still wish we had a few solid results and some podiums, which I think he was capable of here in speed events. He’s not a guy that I have to worry about confidence with, but he is surely frustrated. We just kind of need to take a deep breath, take a step back, and start getting to the finish line.”
Nate Peterson is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.