Swiss’ Cuche upends man from Liechtenstein
Cuche, a 29-year-old veteran, slid sideways around a gate during the hard, slick top section – where American hopeful Daron Rahlves fell a few runs earlier –but recovered on the bottom section to spoil a fabulous day for Liechtenstein’s only ski racer, Marco Buechel.
Cuche’s time of 1 minute, 18.83 seconds, was 0.08 seconds ahead of Buechel, who held the top spot for 12 racers.
“The mistake woke me up,” Cuche said. “After that, it was a smooth run. I made up a lot of time by keeping my line straight at the bottom.”
After Cuche finished, he had to wait for Austrian Stephan Eberharter, who won Saturday’s downhill race and is dominating the overall World Cup points race so far this season. Like many racers, Eberharter faltered on the top section, but unlike Cuche, he couldn’t make up the time and finished 15th, ending his streak of four-straight World Cup wins.
“I was thinking, “Not Eberharter again, not Eberharter again,” Cuche said.
Bode Miller was the top U.S. finisher, placing sixth after an aggressive line off the top, his best super-G finish of his career. Miller, Rahlves (last year’s world champion in the event) and Marco Sullivan all finished in the top 10 Saturday, and while Rahlves and Sullivan faltered Sunday, Miller led a charge of three Americans in the top 25. Thomas Vonn placed 13th, while Erik Schlopy finished 22nd.
“I don’t have the experience in judging distance and speed in the event,” Miller said. “Knowing the course doesn’t do any good if you don’t know where you’re going to be on the course. But line really wasn’t the issue. If you make the wrong choices, you wind up losing speed.”
For runner-up Buechel, Cuche’s run didn’t quite spoil his day. Buechel is a hero in Liechtenstein, a country of 30,000 people sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, and began receiving phone calls from family, friends and even the Prince Hans Adam II as soon as his results were known.
“I won second place. I didn’t lose a first place,” Buechel said. “I’ve got to be really happy. This is only the second super-G of the season. At the last race, I started 10th. This race I was 16th. Next race I’ll probably be 20th. I’ll try to beat everyone next time.”
Austrian Hans Trinkle finished third.
For Eberharter, the race showed a mortal side not often seen the past two seasons. The 33-year-old Austrian won last year’s overall World Cup title and until Sunday’s race this season, had won four of the six races in which he competed in. The top section, a 23-degree steep that slopes against the hard, right turn soon after the start, caused the majority of the 15 disqualifications for crashes or missed gates. Eberharter barely hung on and still earned more than enough points to keep his World Cup lead.
Rahlves, on the other hand, had too much speed to keep balanced. The California native flew out of the start but, on that hard right turn, lost his edge and tumbled down the slope.
All in all, the day belonged to the Swiss, who placed four racers in the top 10 and three in the top five. Without a surprise from Lichtenstein and a steady Austrian, the podium might have ended up full of Cuche’s countrymen.
NOTES: It just wasn’t Austria’s day. About midway through Christoph Gruber’s race Sunday, one of his poles caught a gate and went sliding off in the distance. To his credit, he finished the race without a fall and ended up tied for 22nd with American Erik Schlopy … Schlopy and teammate Jakub Fiala made the biggest moves of the day from their starting positions. Schlopy started 52nd, while Fiala started 58th and ended up 26th. Both earned critical points, which will help their starting positions in future races.
Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at email@example.com.
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