Rahlves Wins Kvitfjell Super G
KVITFJELL, Norway – Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., pounded the bottom of the Olympiabakken course Sunday to collect his second World Cup super G victory of the season – the seventh win of his career. Rahlves moved into second place in the super G points and fifth place overall.
Rahlves, who won the Hahnenkamm super G in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in January, was timed in 1 minute, 34.00 seconds on a course set by U.S. DH/SG Head Coach John McBride with Norwegian Bjarne Solbakken runner-up in 1:34.15 before Austrians took the next eight spots. World Cup leader Hermann Maier, who already had clinched the World Cup super G title, was third (1:34.17) to pad his World Cup overall points lead with Benjamin Raich fourth (1:34.22).
Jake Fiala of Frisco was 21st and Bode Miller finished 22nd to retain his No. 2 spot in the overall standings behind Maier. The Austrian, bidding for his fourth overall championship, has 1,185 points with four races left and Miller has 1,098; Rahlves is fifth at 882.
Super G win eases DH frustrations
“I was psyched. I had a little score to settle from last year,” Rahlves said, referring to when he hooked a tip on the first gate of the super G at World Cup Finals on the same course. “And (Saturday when he was fourth in downhill) I wasn’t too psyched, so it was nice to pull some things together today, and it’s cool to do it when our boy set the course. That was one more reason to stick it.”
Missing the podium in the DH, he said, “just added more fuel to the fire to do well in super G.”
Olympiabakken agrees with Rahlves. His first World Cup top-5 came here when the Green Mountain Valley School (located in Vermont) grad flew in the night before from Nor Am races and was fourth in a SG in March 1995. In March 2000, he won back-to-back downhills and was fifth in a super G, all in 48 hours on the speed run immortalized by Tommy Moe when he won the Olympic downhill to open the Lillehammer’s “94 Winter Games.
“I don’t know what it is but this is a good hill. I like skiing this kind of hill and when you feel good, things can happen,” Rahlves said. “You focus more, you get more fired-up.”
Sweet satisfaction: getting beyond comfort zone
McBride, stationed at the bottom of the course, said Rahlves came wide on one big turn, “but he stayed with it and pushed it to the finish. It was exciting as he never got out of his tuck, all the way to the finish. He made up some time on the bottom.”
“It seems I’m always fast on the bottom,” Rahlves said. “I know how to ski that well and take sped into the finish line. Today, it was a do-or-die moment, for sure. I wasn’t about to hold anything back and that’s always good in racing – to push yourself over the limit of feeling comfortable. It’s one of the most satisfying moments in racing, getting outside your comfort level.
“I was a little unsure how it would work out but it ended up paying off. That’s the ultimate reward, getting to the bottom and saying, “I made it’ and you’ve won.”
“This was another tough one, a little bit of a beating again – Jake just missing World Cup Finals, finishing 28th in points and they go to top 25, after Bryon (Friedman – Park City, Utah) was 27th in downhill,” said McBride. “But there definitely was some sunshine today with the way “D’ (Rahlves) skied. He just hammered the bottom again, as he’s done in downhill. It was pretty cool to see.
“You get that straight, rough, ratty, dark, gnarly situation and it’s right up D’s alley, and he worked it out again today. Conditions were sweet, down in the teens, some sunshine. Guys running in the 40s still had a great course. It didn’t chop up much, just awesome conditions … like Beaver Creek (where Rahlves won a downhill in December).”
The victory makes Rahlves, already the No. 1 U.S. man in terms of downhill victories, the No. 1 U.S. man in terms of super G wins. Rahlves has two SG wins; he and Moe, with his 1994 victory at Whistler after his Olympic heroics (including the super G silver medal), are the only U.S. skiers to win a World Cup super G.
Rahlves said he enjoys coming to Kvitfjell, north of Lillehammer, because of the appreciative but laid-back atmosphere. The crowds appreciate ski racing and are enthusiastic, he said, “They had a huge banner with a photo from Kitzbuehel. But, there isn’t all the hype of other places. I wanted to win again this season, to come here and win again in Norway.
“It didn’t happen in the top half of the downhill (Saturday) but I had a good bottom half, so today I told myself, “It’s time to step up in super G.’ I know my super G’s going well and I’m feeling healthy again. I was sick for three weeks after Kitzbuehel, but I got healthy at home (last month) this was an incredible week. It never got really cold, just a little nippy, and it was overcast (for the downhill) but it was epic today – sunny, blue, perfect; almost Tahoe warm … almost.”
The men’s tour heads next to Sestriere, Italy, for World Cup Finals, which begin Wednesday with men’s and women’s downhill. Rahlves, who set a U.S. men’s mark last season by finishing second in DH points, is third, 10 points back of Maier, going into Wednesday’s final downhill.
“I’d like to take Hermann down,” he said, “But we’ll have to see what the course is like.”