Lasse Kjus has a head start on an unprecedented achievement _
VAIL, Colo. (AP) _ Lasse Kjus has a head start on an unprecedented achievement _ winning the World Cup overall title without winning a race.
Kjus, the versatile Norwegian, finished second for the fourth time this season _ a half-second behind France’s Luc Alphand in Friday’s opening downhill of the season.
Kjus, whose three previous runnerup finishes were in giant slaloms, earned 80 points and moved into first place in the overall standings, ahead of Switzerland’s Michael von Gruenigen 365-300.
Kjus, 24, was somewhat frustrated at another runnerup finish. In seven seasons on the circuit, he still is looking for his first race victory, although he won a combined _ a pairing of two race results _ in 1994.
``If I can’t win a race this year, I’ll be disappointed,″ he said. ``But this is a great start for my season. I didn’t believe I could do so well in all four disciplines.″
Kjus had a chance to add to his point total in today’s super-G.
Alphand, 30, who overcame a history of injury to win his first World Cup race last January, now has won four of the last eight World Cup downhills.
``I’ve always been fast on the flat sections, and the last two years I’ve been working on my turns,″ Alphand said.
``I’m just skiing with a lot of confidence, and I feel more professional about my training. I’m happy with my life.″
Alphand, whose victory in the final downhill of last season wrested the title from Italy’s Kristian Ghedina, was timed in 1 minute, 37.93 seconds on a relatively flat course that rewarded skiers who chose late start numbers.
``I was tense at the start because it was the first race and I really wanted to defend my title,″ Alphand said. ``I knew it had to be a race with no mistakes. I did make some little mistakes and I almost missed the last gate, but I was fast.″
Alphand, who grew a beard this summer, was eager to shave it off. ``I said I would wait until my first victory of the season to shave it. I was worried I would look like ZZ Top.″
Kjus was timed in 1:38.47, followed by Patrick Ortlieb of Austria in 1:38.61. Ortlieb had a quick run until he had two slips near the finish. The top three finishers all chose start numbers in the 20s because a bright sun made the course glaze over and become faster as the race progressed.
Switzerland’s Xavier Gigandet was fourth in 1:38.74.
Two skiers with late start numbers cracked the top 10, including Fredrik Nyberg of Sweden, who started 65th and placed fifth in 1:38.76.
It was a disappointing day for a talented American downhill team. AJ Kitt of Boulder, Colo., tied for 20th in 1:39.48. Kyle Rasmussen of Angels Camp, Calif., who won two downhills last season, placed 30th in 1:39.83. Tommy Moe of Girdwood, Alaska, the 1994 Olympic downhill gold medalist who is coming off knee surgery last March, was 32nd in 1:39.85.
Kitt said he made ``just too many mistakes. It was the first race of the year and I just pushed too hard, but I’ll get it together.″
Moe called his race ``a good warmup for the season. I beat a lot of guys who didn’t blow out their knees last season.″