Kirkwood training pays off for latest World Cup champion
Special to the Tribune
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – The super-G World Cup welcomed a new winner and put a regular back on the podium.
Austria’s Stephan Goergl took the win Thursday on a tricky Bird’s of Prey course with a final time of 1 minute, 13.40 seconds. He was followed by series leader Bode Miller of Team USA in 1:13.64. Miller won the previous three races of the season.
One of Goergl’s coaches credits his training at Kirkwood Mountain Resort last season for helping him improve to a higher level.
Goergl, whose best previous finish was seventh at the Garmisch super-G last winter, embraced his first World Cup win.
“I woke up thinking it was possible to win this race, but it’s too early for me to realize all that has happened to me here,” he said. “I told myself to attack and to give 100 percent and to do as much as possible. I like skiing, I know I’m a good ski racer and today I was able to show everybody.”
Goergl, whose mother competed in the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, spent time training at Kirkwood last winter with longtime pal and race coach Geunther Birgmann.
Raised in Austria and now head of Kirkwood’s coaching staff, Birgmann said, “Last year, Stephan raced in Park City but didn’t qualify for Lake Louise, Alberta, so we decided to do a small training camp at Kirkwood.
“(Kirkwood President) Tim Cohee organized everything and their hospitality was incredible. We used mainly Chair 6 and trained both giant slalom and super-G. Stephan definitely enjoyed his stay and I see his time there as a benchmark for going to the next level of his ski career.”
Another Austrian newcomer, Mario Scheiber, completed the podium with his run of 1:13.72.
For Miller, top-three finishes have become as natural as breathing. Last weekend, he won his first downhill race, followed the next day with his first win in super-G. Reputed as highly analytical and very in-tune with his skiing, Miller described his run at Beaver Creek, saying, “It’s a little bit tough with super-G. There’s no training run and you’re just expected in the morning to come out and put down a really aggressive run with no mistakes. That’s really challenging.
“And the hard part about this particular course is the middle flat (section). You have to carry speed across that flat. I made a mistake just at the beginning of that little 20-second section and it cost me a significant amount of time. Right away, I was out in the soft snow and it affects you the rest of the way for that split. You also never get the speed back. It was a very frustrating place to make a mistake.”
With the course just outside the downhill setup, racers struggled with the kind of cookies that aren’t eatable.
“As I went past the gate, I got into these little death cookies,” Miller said. “They did a great job slipping it out for the downhill (training) but where we were running super-G was just outside the DH track. So all the little cookies that were slipped from the DH track are sort of on the outside of today’s course. And as soon as I got into that stuff, it was already too late.”
Race day was more disappointing for Daron Rahlves of Truckee. Running with a time of 1:14.56, Rahlves landed in an unusual 17th place.
“On top, I felt pretty good. Definitely scrapping, trying to stay on top of it. It wasn’t easy considering the conditions,” Rahlves said.
“The course was beat to hell, actually. It was pretty tough. I thought it would hold up better, but there were some grooves and some little holes up top. By the time you got down to the Pumphouse turn, it was pretty choppy.”
One major error spoiled a possible good run by Rahlves.
“I went too straight trying to make a move off Golden Eagle jump and just flew off that thing and put my hand right into the gate,” Rahlves said. “I was having a decent run up until then, but that was a major mistake. But in ski racing, you screw up and make mistakes sometimes.
“You’ve gotta just refocus and rechannel that frustration in the right manner. It’s easy for me to build off of that and take it into tomorrow.”
Bode Miller agreed with his teammate, looking forward to Friday’s downhill race.
“For the downhill, we’ve already had a training run and we know what to expect of the course,” Miller said. “We’ll take a good look at it Friday (morning) and I think I’ll be able to put down some really good, aggressive skiing.”