Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A day after they finished first and second in the VISA Birds of Prey downhill, Miller survived three bobbles to overtake teammate Daron Rahlves for a dramatic giant slalom win in a snowstorm Saturday. Erik Schlopy finished fourth, one-hundredth of a second off the podium even though he broke his hand during the first run after hitting it against the base of a gate.
Dane Spencer turned in a terrific result, coming in 12th. Spencer had struggled throughout the early season with a nagging knee injury, and said he was unsure what he was capable of on the World Cup stage because of it. Just days before he finished well off the pace in the men’s Nor-Ams at Keystone. Visibly satisfied at the finish Spencer is set with confidence for the next giant slalom in Alta Badia on Dec. 18.
Schlopy’s result was also a confidence builder. In 2003 he won a bronze medal at the World Championships giant slalom, and was sixth in last year’s race at Beaver Creek, but has had spotty performances since. Surely, he’ll find his way to the podium this season.
Miller, tied with Finland’s Kalle Pallander for the first run lead, while Rahlves sat in second.
Snow began to drive during the second run, but the course remained in good condition. Some racers said the conditions varied from slick icy surfaces to sections of the course that were chunked out making skiing smooth a trick in flat light.
Rahlves and Schlopy came down and held their positions, as the spectators began to murmur of a 1-2-3 finish for the Americans, but when Pallander came through the line ahead of Schlopy attention quickly refocused on whether Miller would explode or execute.
Miller’s second run was one of the weekend’s highlights. His body and skis did things not even he could describe as he laid everything on the line. He was not skiing for second place again.
"Those of you who know ski racing, you’re not faster if you’re on your ass, but it does add excitement sometimes. I knew I needed to bring a lot of intensity to the second run. I wanted to put down a run that I was really psyched about, so with the fatigue and the snow conditions and all the things kinda going against me, I think I felt like maybe this challenge was more worthy," Miller said. "I like those kinds of challenges. It definitely was worthy of a massive effort. It made it easier for me to dig deep."
When he saw that he had won, Miller laid down in the soft snow at the finish laughing.
He added, "I knew I was gonna have a massive struggle at the bottom. The bottom of this course is usually where you win or lose, so I was literally yelling from about Golden Eagle down, shouting the whole time, full war cries," Miller said.
It was the 20th World Cup win of his career.


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