World Cup opens in Austria
SOELDEN, Austria ? Olympic silver medalist Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., started the World Cup season with another do-or-die routine Sunday, surviving a lost pole on his first run and a near-spill on his second to finish fifth in the opening giant slalom on the Rettenbach Glacier.
No other U.S. skier made the second run, including Carbondale’s Jake Zamansky who was making his World Cup debut, as defending World Cup champion Stephan Eberharter of Austria, three times second in Soelden, edged Frederick Covili for the victory.
“It was really fun,” Miller, who skied No. 1 among the 77 racers, said after his survival routine in the gusting winds. “For sure, the second run I gave away a bunch of time on the road [which cuts through the upper section of the course] and probably didn’t need to take as much risk. But it was encouraging ? I took the risk in the right place and it just barely didn’t work out.”
“When you take a risk, and it’s a pretty obvious risk and it doesn’t go your way ? and I still ended up fifth, real close, it’s good,” he said.
Organizers, who delayed the women’s GS for about two hours because of high winds Sunday, moved the start for the men’s second run down the mountain to ensure they finished the season-opener for the men. Eberharter, skiing second, led the first run ? with Miller, despite losing a pole when he hooked a gate just below the road ? and finished with a total time of 1:49.47 with Covili, who won here a year ago en route to capturing the World Cup GS title, second in 1:49.60. Swiss great Michael Von Gruenigen was third, Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway fourth and Miller fifth in 1:49.92.
Miller, skiing next to last on the final run in the flip-30 format, said the tricky light just as he attempted to gun his speed, almost cost him on the second run. In Soelden, the first run is held in sunshine but by afternoon, the sun is behind the mountains and the course is in shade.
“I had the win right there; it would’ve been a little roll of the dice to take less risk and try to win,” said Miller, who also was fifth a year ago in the Soelden opener as he rebounded from knee surgery and ? with four World Cup wins (three in slalom, one in GS) plus a pair of Olympic silver medals (GS, combined) ? posted the best U.S. man’s season since Phil Mahre won the overall World Cup title in 1983. “There wasn’t any way to make up on the bottom of the run; I needed to make it up on the top. If I could could it again, I think I’d take it again. It was flat light, though ? I couldn’t see, it was really bumpy.”
The U.S. team competes next in the Nature Valley Cup races ? giant slaloms Nov. 13-14 and slaloms Nov. 16-17 at Colorado’s Loveland Basin Ski Area ? with the World Cup resuming Nov. 21-24 at Park City Mountain Resort. Men and women will each race GS and slalom.
? Howling winds swept the Rettenbach Glacier, delaying the start of the alpine World Cup season for two hours Saturday before first-run leader Andrine Flemmen of Norway, Slovenian Tina Maze and unheralded Austrian Nicole Hosp, who had the fastest second run, staged a historic three-way tie for the giant slalom win in 1:49.91.
Sarah Schleper of Vail posted the 15th-fastest second run, moved up three spots to finish 22nd with a time of 1:52.12 in the field of 74 racers while Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, skiing into a strong headwind on her second run, was 28th in 1:52.98.
“They were very tough conditions,” said women’s Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj. “It was incredibly difficult weather.”
Athletes and coaches echoed Cernigoj, calling the conditions unfair for racing.
The first-in-World Cup history triple tie was Flemmen’s second victory at the Rettenbach while Maze, fifth in the first run after the lengthy delays, and Hosp, who was 11th in the first run, recorded the first victories of their World Cup careers.
Completing the first five were Stina Nilsen of Norway, finishing fourth while Spaniard Maria Rienda Contreras was fifth. It was a rewarding start to the season for the Norwegian women, coached by former U.S. racer and University of Vermont coach Felix McGrath.
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.