Rahlves continues great weekend with fourth place
Daron Rahlves had a tough act to follow at Saturday’s World Cup downhill at the Birds of Prey – his own.
After becoming the first American to win a downhill on home snow in 19 years, as well as being the first in red, white and blue to conquer the Birds of Prey, he had hopes for a repeat.
It was not to be, as Rahlves finished a very strong fourth – serving as the filling in the Austrian team’s Oreo cookie. Rahlves was wedged between Austria’s top three of Hermann Maier, Hans Knauss and Andreas Schifferer and Nos. 5 and 6, also from the world’s skiing superpower – Klaus Kroell and Michael Walchhofer, respectively.
“I skied well today,” Rahlves said. “I did some things I wanted to do and came down kind of surprised I was fourth with that kind of run. Once you start winning or you win, nothing but a win feels good anymore, especially on the same hill after the run (Friday). I was (1 minute, 39.59 seconds) … and I’m way out today from my time (Friday).”
Rahlves finished in 1:41.01. Maier’s winning time was 1:39.76.
In all fairness, the track was slower Saturday. Taking nothing away from Maier’s brilliant performance, Rahlves’ winning time Friday was 17-hundredths of a second faster than the Herminator on Saturday. Friday, 28 racers broke 1:42. On Saturday, only 15 did.
For Rahlves, the wind at the top of the course was a key factor.
“The wind kicked up just two guys before me and it got (Austria’s Stephan) Eberharter and Walchhofer,” Rahlves said. “We were all a ways behind up there. I just got a little unlucky with the conditions. It just started gusting up pretty strong. … Mother Nature rules.”
The splits bear that out. It took Rahlves 24.74 seconds to get to the first checkpoint. By that time Rahlves was there, he already trailed Maier by six-tenths of a second, and the way the Herminator was skiing Saturday, nobody was going to overcome that margin.
“I lost a little bit three gates up from The Pumphouse, that little section there,” Rahlves said. “I got a little rattled there. I felt like I was set up really nice and the ski hit, like, a big hole and the ski kicked out and I lost a lot of ground there. But the bottom felt good.”
Rahlves has established himself as one of the major players at this year’s Birds of Prey races. With his two runs – first and fourth – he has vaulted into third place in the World Cup downhill standings with 163 points, just nine points behind Maier and 27 behind the leader, Walchhofer.
“It’s a good weekend overall, but once you win, nothing ever tastes any good, unless you win,” he said. “I felt like that run that I had was a run that could put me on the podium, for sure. Just to be off by a little bit sucks, but it’s racing.”
Speaking of racing, the Birds of Prey weekend concludes today with an 11 a.m. super-G. That should pose a challenge for Rahlves, who has struggled in the discipline on this course. His best finish in a Birds of Prey super-G was sixth back in 1997. Last year, he was a DNF.
“It’s a really difficult hill and you’ve got to be real conservative on the top at the start,” Rahlves said. “I’ve always gone out and either fallen on my side or missed a gate up there. I definitely got to be a little more tactically smart out of the start to The Pumphouse, and I can start letting it go, ski hard.”
Miller stumbles again
Bode Miller had a second straight day of frustration. And, his World Cup overall standing is taking a beating, at least for now. Miller entered the weekend No. 1 and has dropped to fifth behind Maier, Walchhofer, Schifferer and Knauss, respectively.
Like Rahlves. he had a slow start on the upper flats, but appeared to be making up some ground on The Flyway.
He clocked in at the second checkpoint in third place behind Maier and Knauss. But, again, things went awry for Miller as he missed a gate around The Brink.
Miller wasn’t around to answer questions afterward, but men’s head coach Phil McNichol chalked up Miller’s consecutive DNF’s as “horrible luck.”
“Today, again, he skied very good down the pitch and had a little bobble on that,” McNichol said. “It was a little shaded, and it was a little more pronounced. I think they actually cleaned it up a little bit later with the slippers and stuff on that roll. Just bad luck.”
Miller broke his skis in Friday’s spill in The Abyss. So, there’s no way of telling whether he was comfortable with his new set Saturday. There’s also the issue that Miller is much more of a technical skier than a downhiller. He did finish eighth in last year’s Birds of Prey downhill, but Miller picks up his cash and points in the giant slalom and slalom.
That having been said, Miller is the defending Worlds silver-medalist in the super-G. So, will today’s super-G bode well for Miller?
“If I were you, I’d put some money on Bode Miller,” McNichol said.
Friedman picks up points
They’re cheering in New Hampshire.
That’s because Bryon Friedman of the Big Green is having a big weekend for himself. The Dartmouth undergrad finished 23rd on Friday and 24th on Saturday, performances which gave the 23 year old his first World Cup points. And, those points will be changing Friedman’s itinerary in the next few months – for the better
“He was either going to go to Lake Louise for the Nor-Am or go to Val Gardena for the World Cup,” McNichol said. “He solidified his position on the World Cup and we’ll probably be seeing him racing. He’ll get a lot more opportunities now. He’ll get (Val Gardena) and he’ll probably get Chamonix, before we even start to re-question him again.”
Friedman came down in 1:42.62 in his seventh career World Cup downhill start,, and the rookie enjoyed the ride on Birds of Prey.
“It’s funny, actually,” he said. “The first day, you inspect. It’s a little intimidating before your first run. But, once you get on the course for your first run, it all goes away, and you realize how much fun this course is.”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.