Rahlves moves into third in downhill standings
WENGEN, Switzerland — Daron Rahlves of Truckee isn’t executing perfect runs, but that may be a good sign, given his recent propensity for landing on the podium recently.
Rahlves earned his fourth podium of the season, with a runner-up finish in Friday’s Lauberhorn downhill. The second-place performance moved Rahlves into third place in the World Cup downhill standings behind Austrian Stephan Eberharter, who won the race by more than a second.
“This is one of my dream hills,” Rahlves said, “It feels good to make it to the podium here and to keep things rolling.
“Eberharter was so fast. He was nine-tenths ahead of me on the top. I hung pretty tight after about 40 seconds and made it a fight to the end of the run, but he crushed it. That was an epic run.”
Rahlves is ninth overall in the World Cup standings through Sunday’s slalom race.
Rahlves’ other podiums this season were a first and third in Bormio and a third at Beaver Creek.
“I think those Bormio races conditioned me to fight to the end,” Rahlves said. “The Lauberhorn is another of those courses that shows who’s in good shape. All the way to the end, I just kept sticking my nose in it, kept pushing.”
Former World Cup downhill champion Hermann Maier of Austria, in his first downhill since a motorcycle crash in August 2001, was 22nd. World Cup overall leader Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., was sixth, with Tahoe City’s Marco Sullivan 14th.
Eberharter, who won a downhill in Bormio, Italy, a week ago, finished in 2:27.78, followed by Rahlves in 2:28.89.
Rahlves admitted to being nervous at the start.
“That’s good because now I know if I put in a run, I can be in there, can win or be on the podium. That gets my blood boiling hard, my heart’s pumping hard, gets me fired up,” Rahlves said.
Still, he was surprised with his second-place finish. He thought he’d blown it in a couple of sections.
“I was surprised because I’d made some mistakes,” Rahlves said. “But I knew I was going fast, catching some good air, which shows the speed. But I blew one section on a right-hand turn — it was icy and bumpy — but I ended up being second, hit 139 Ks, something like fourth at that final speed trap.”
One perk of making the podium was that Rahlves was taken by helicopter from the mob scene at the finish area to the press conference.
“That was cool,” he said.
Swiss racer Bruno Kernen gave the home folks plenty to cheer about Saturday, winning the 73rd Lauberhorn downhill while Rahlves performed the top U.S. result, finishing eighth after being flagged off and given a re-start.
Miller was 11th and Sullivan of Squaw Valley placed 15th.
On the longest DH course in World Cup racing, Kernen won in 2:28.69 with Michael Walchhofer of Austria second (2:28.92) and Eberharter third.
When Klaus Kroell, also of Austria, crashed at the bottom of his run, officials flagged off Rahlves, who was on the top half of the course and aiming for a podium repeat after finishing second to Eberharter in Friday’s downhill.
Rahlves, given a re-start several skiers later, finished in 2:30.66. Miller was timed in 2:31.18 with Sullivan down in 2:31.37 for the eighth downhill of the season.
“It was tough with ‘D’ (Rahlves) getting flagged but, unfortunately, that happens sometimes,” said U.S. men’s downhill/super-G head coach John McBride.
Miller reclaimed the lead in the overall World Cup standings Sunday, finishing 11th in the slalom behind Italy’s Giorgio Rocca and second in the combined.
“Bode’s success has been fun to share. I want to be the fastest guy in the world, in the U.S., and Bode’s skiing fast, so I’m pushing hard,” Rahlves added.
Rocca won the slalom on the hard Mannlichen-Jungfrau course in a combined time of 1 minute, 47.88 seconds for his first World Cup victory. Japan’s Akira Sasaki qualified for a second run for the first time and finished second. World Cup slalom leader Ivica Kostelic was third in 1:48.59.
Miller collected 104 points Sunday and moved past Stephan Eberharter into first place in the overall standings.
“I changed equipment after the opening leg,” said Miller, after a wild first run. “I had some serious mistakes in the first leg.
“I tried to go fast in the second run but I wasn’t so much looking for speed. I was just trying to make it down and do well in the combined.”
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