Bode wins Birds of Prey downhill
December 3, 2011
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – This is what makes us watch.
Bode Miller turned back the clock Friday at Beaver Creek, delivering a vintage Bode run for his 33rd career World Cup win and his third downhill victory at Birds of Prey.
“It’s good,” Miller said amid a mob of reporters “This hill’s a pleasure to run every time, but, just like anything, it’s truly challenging and scary at the start. It’s hard to get excited to run it. You’re nervous to run it and when you’re at the finish line it’s awesome.”
And between the start and finish it was the Miller that Birds of Prey and American ski fans remembered from his prime – a go-for-broke approach, a bit of drama and a whole lot of speed.
“I think (it was) tactics, being able to commit to that kind of risk,” Miller said. “The risk is really demanding on this hill. You can’t back off at all. You see how tight the course is. If you try to back off at any spot, it can take stuff away from you really fast. Today, I didn’t back off anywhere, even though I had a couple little bobbles, I had my foot on the gas the whole time. I think that’s what separated me.”
Though running 12th, ahead of most of his competition, Miller laid down what looked the winning run at the time (1 minute, 43.82 seconds), but it was tight.
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Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, pronounced Bay-at Fuse, surged on the lower half of the course from the No. 19 bib coming within four-hundredths of a second for second place. Austria’s Klaus Kroell slid into third just 14-hundredths behind.
It was the first time Miller won home snow since his 2006 downhill victory here – he has four wins at Beaver Creek, including the 2005 giant slalom. His last World Cup triumph came in 2010 in a super-combined in Wengen, Switzerland.
And with Lindsey Vonn winning the women’s downhill up in Lake Louise, Alberta, it was quite the day for the U.S. Ski Team. The last time two American won on the World Cup on the same day was Dec. 19, 2010, with Ted Ligety winning GS and Vonn taking a super-combined both in Alta Badia, Italy. For a downhill sweep, one has to go back to Dec. 3, 2004, when Miller won here and Vonn was doing her usual number in Alberta. (For the serious trivia buffs, that was Vonn’s first World Cup win. She was Kildow at the time.)
While Miller was in green numbers at each interval during his run, drawing successively-louder cheers from a partisan crowd, he won the race up top. His 25.25-second time on the Flyway was the second-best of the day, so his gliding was superb, a must for a Birds of Prey downhill win.
Miller likely clinched his win with the best time of anyone from The Flyway to The Pumphouse. He was 16-hundredths of a second faster than Feuz there and 44-hundredths better than Kroell.
Sitting on the hot seat, Miller, who uses Head skis, knew that his lead was evaporating as Feuz and Kroell, both on Salomon, came down.
“I got reeled in a bit at the end by those guys on Salomon and they’re skiing unbelievably aggressive right now,” Miller said. “There are a ton of guys doing that right. I was pretty fortunate today that my skis ran so well on the top. That’s what won the race for me was taking those guys by huge amounts on the top splits.”
This was Miller’s first downhill victory since Kvitfjell, Norway, in 2008, and he had to hold off one of the up-and-coming downhill stars in Feuz. He blasted onto the scene last season, finishing seventh in the downhill chase. He busted into the win column last winter, also at Kvitfjell, and he was second last weekend up in Lake Louise.
“Yes, I definitely had a feeling after the training that I could do well here, but I have not really raced here,” Feuz said through a translator. “This was my second time (racing here), so I was happy.”
Feuz might just have run out of real estate when it came to catching Miller.
“I noticed how I was getting faster toward the end,” Feuz said. “In the finish I was over-happy.”
Kroell ran one spot behind Feuz. He said he found the snow a bit slow up top, and made a few small mistakes on The Brink.
“I’m really happy with this result,” Kroell said. “You have to risk all. It’s turnier on the top, so you have to find a nice line to lose nothing from time and from Pumphouse you have to push very hard.”
While Feuz and Kroell came the closest, Miller still had to wait through the top 30 and some big names before feeling comfortable atop the podium. Despite winning the Lake Louise downhill last weekend and looking sharp in training, Switzerland’s Didier Cuche was ninth. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt was the last realistic threat and he took 10th.
France’s Johan Clarey finished fourth and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal rounded out the top five.
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