Walchhofer wins Kitzbuehel downhill; Rahlves third, Miller fourth
KITZBUEHEL, Austria – Michael Walchhofer of Austria tamed the World Cup’s most prestigious course Saturday, winning a downhill for the second time this season in a race in which Daron Rahlves finished third and Bode Miller fourth.Walchhofer, the reigning World Cup downhill champion, was timed in 1 minute, 46.75 seconds on the notorious Streif slope, which was shortened because of dangerous weather on the upper part of the Hahnenkamm mountain.Liechtenstein’s Marco Buechel was 0.05 seconds behind. Rahlves, who plans to retire after this season, was 0.33 back. Miller, his U.S. teammate and the defending overall champion, had his second-best downhill result this season.”Kitzbuehel is the ultimate in downhill skiing,” Rahlves said. “There is no place like it in the world. I didn’t win, but being on the podium is still a nice way to go out.”Fritz Strobl broke his left hand, threatening his chance to defend his Olympic downhill title. He lost control after landing on the tails of his skis during a jump, but found his footing again after smashing through a gate.The 33-year-old Austrian was taken to a hospital and was expected to undergo surgery in Salzburg on Saturday night. His coach said he will not race next week in Garmisch, Germany.The victory lifted Walchhofer’s career total in World Cup racing to eight, including five downhills. His other downhill victory this season came at Val d’ Isere, France, in early December.”I set myself goals for the season. Before it was the downhill in Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany) and Wengen (Switzerland). This year, it was Kitzbuehel,” Walchhofer said.”Maybe it is also a good omen for the Olympics,” he added.Miller, the world downhill champion, was second in the event at Beaver Creek, Colo., this season. He has been struggling to recover the form that vaulted him to the top last season.”I was having fun out there as usual,” he said. “I had some problems with my knee and I might miss the next race, but it was OK.”Rahlves skied his last race on his favorite course. The Californian has been one of the most successful skiers on the Hahnenkamm.”I wanted to go out in style,” Rahlves said. “I really wanted to win it. I thought the ultimate would be to do what Stefan Eberharter did two years ago. He wanted it more than anybody, to get to that level, to win it with a bang.”Eberharter, one of Austria’s leading all-time speed stars, retired soon after winning in Kitzbuehel.In 2003, Rahlves became the first American to win a World Cup downhill on the slope. A year later, he was the first non-Austrian to claim a World Cup super-G on the course. This was the seventh time Rahlves finished among the top three in Kitzbuehel.”It has not yet settled that this was the last time skiing down the Streif for me,” Rahlves said. “I was like a freight train, I really wanted to go out and give it my best – all that I had.”Organizers lowered the start as a cloud of thick fog shrouded the treacherous tip of the course, including the dreaded Mausefalle (Mousetrap) – a spectacular 60-degree drop with a gravity-defying turn.Kitzbuehel has been plagued by bad weather the past few days with heavy snowfalls, strong winds and low visibility resulting in the cancellation of the second and final downhill training sessions.Last year’s downhill race also was canceled because of unsafe weather. The last time the Streif course had to be shortened was in 2003.Saturday’s downhill also will count as part of the combined event, which adds the times of the downhill with Sunday’s slalom.Vail, Colorado
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