Walchhofer wins downhill, Miller 8th in Italy
BORMIO, Italy (AP) — Michael Walchhofer of Austria added another victory to his farewell season Wednesday, becoming the first skier to win the grueling World Cup downhill on the Stelvio course three times.
Walchhofer clocked 1 minute, 59.66 seconds on the circuit’s most physically demanding layout for his third victory this season and the 18th of his career.
Bode Miller, who is still seeking his first win of the season, finished eighth on a course where he’s had two downhill victories. Miller was on pace for a podium spot but went slightly off line in the lower section, when racers’ legs are burning from the constant turns and bumps.
Having done no speed training over the summer, Miller is still not satisfied with his equipment.
“It’s all about the setup,” he said. “If you’re not comfortable with your setup, it’s tough to execute.”
Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland was the only other skier to break 2 minutes, finishing just 0.08 seconds behind. Christof Innerhofer of Italy was third in sunny and cold conditions with the temperature hovering just below the freezing level.
“Winning three times on this difficult slope — maybe the most technical course on the circuit — really means a lot to me,” Walchhofer said. “It’s a perfect start to the season.”
Retired Austrian great Hermann Maier won four races overall on the Stelvio, but only two downhills. Miller has three victories here, with two in downhill.
While most skiers were bent over in exhaustion upon crossing the finish line, the 35-year-old Walchhofer had enough energy for a celebration that included a few quick slalom turns before he came to a stop.
“I didn’t do so well in training and I wasn’t enjoying myself. So this morning after inspection, I went back to my hotel room and just told myself to have fun and it worked,” Walchhofer said.
Walchhofer’s two other downhill wins in Bormio came on consecutive days in 2006.
Zurbriggen, who won his first career downhill in Val Gardena this month, took the lead in the overall standings from American Ted Ligety, who skipped this race. Zurbriggen leads with 395 points, one in front of Walchhofer and 74 ahead of Ligety.
“I’m really satisfied with myself with such a great season,” said Zurbriggen, who had contemplated skipping this race. “I just decided to come a few days ago, and I guess I made the right decision.”
Having won two of the three races so far, Walchhofer holds a 15-point lead over Zurbriggen in the downhill standings.
Steven Nyman of United States was 11th, and teammate Travis Ganong was 20th.
Two other Austrians who skied right after Walchhofer didn’t finish.
Klaus Kroell was on pace for the podium before he fell and slid down head-first for several hundred yards, bloodying his face but apparently suffering no other injuries.
Mario Scheiber was faster than Walchhofer through the middle split, then missed a gate. Robbie Dixon of Canada also fell and reported bruises, but no serious injuries.
Most of the men have a break for New Year’s, while the top 15 in the overall standings will compete in a special parallel slalom city event in Munich on Jan. 2.