Rahlves is king of Lauberhorn
By Erica Bulman
The Associated Press
WENGEN, Switzerland – While Bode Miller griped about too much media coverage this week, American teammate Daron Rahlves was inspired by a lack of recognition.
Rahlves, feeling snubbed by Swiss papers leading up to Saturday’s downhill, responded by becoming the first American in more than a decade to win on the Lauberhorn course.
Rahlves finished in 2 minutes, 30.54 seconds. Michael Walchhofer, the reigning World Cup downhill champion, was .40 seconds behind. His Austrian teammate, Olympic downhill champion Fritz Strobl, was third.
“I read that ski legend Bernhard Russi had picked his six favorites: Walchhofer, Strobl, Marco (Buechel), Bode (Miller), Bruno Kernen and Hermann Maier. I wasn’t even mentioned,” Rahlves said after winning his third downhill of the season. “Seriously, it gave me more motivation. I want to be known as a contender.”
Miller, who spent part of this week apologizing for comments he made about skiing “wasted,” finished 11th – 2.41 seconds back – after a couple of mistakes.
The Lauberhorn, at 2.8 miles the longest course on the World Cup circuit, is one of five so-called classic races that also include Val d’Isere, France; Kitzbuehel, Austria; Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany, and Val Gardena, Italy.
With long, gentle sections, the Lauberhorn favors the circuit’s top gliders. Unusually light for a speed skier, Rahlves generally prefers steep and technical downhills, such as Beaver Creek and Bormio, where he won earlier this season.
Rahlves became the first American to win on the Lauberhorn since Kyle Rasmussen in 1995. Bill Johnson is the only other U.S. skier to win here.
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president Bill Marolt, who came to Wengen to talk with Miller, was glad he made the trip.
“I stayed because I wanted to see the races. I get a real kick and a real sense of enjoyment seeing our guys stand on the podium,” Marolt said. “The Lauberhorn is one of the classics. It’s 76 years old. It’s got unbelievable tradition and history. The actual course itself is really long and difficult.”
Marolt made his unscheduled trip to Wengen to meet with Miller about comments in a “60 Minutes” interview in which the reigning World Cup overall champion said it’s not easy “to ski when you’re wasted.”
Rahlves said the recent uproar over Miller’s behavior had not affected him.
“I just laugh,” Rahlves said. “Bode is saying things that bring a lot of attention to the sport. Now there’s this guy in Dallas, Texas, who knows there’s a Winter Olympics. I think any press is good, even if corporate sponsors don’t like it.
“He’s good at talking. He backs things up. He’s on his game, and every single race he’s a threat.”
Rahlves, who has excelled this season in downhill since taking the advice of former champion Stephan Eberharter to tone down his partying, said it was unlikely he would give Miller the same counsel.
“He wouldn’t listen,” Rahlves said.
Rahlves’ main goal this season, which he has said likely will be his last, is to win the World Cup downhill title. With the 100 points from Saturday’s victory, he moved into third place in the downhill standings. Strobl leads the discipline rankings with 415 points, Walchhofer is second with 372 and Rahlves has 330.
Rahlves also is third in the overall standings behind Benjamin Raich of Austria, who skipped Saturday’s downhill, and Walchhofer. Raich has 706 points, Walchhofer is 106 points behind and Rahlves has 589. Miller is fourth with 513.
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