FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Beaver Creek: Raich in lead after first run of slalom

Beaver Creek: Raich in lead after first run of slalom{mosimage}Austria’s Benjamin Raich leads Italy’s Giorgio Rocca and fellow Austrian Mario Matt after the first run of slalom in Beaver Creek. Raich appears back on track after a DNF in yesterday’s GS and two speed finishes in the middle of the pack.

Raich skied a solid run that put him 0.16 seconds ahead of Rocca, and 0.32 ahead of Matt. Matt ran first, Rocca second and Raich fourth. The gap behind Matt widens considerably, as Sweden’s Johan Brolenius sits in fourth, but 1.23 back.

Many of the World Cup field appeared rusty in the first slalom race of the year, as numerous racers spun out, slid down and blew out of the quickly paced course (American Bode Miller among them).

The top American finisher was Ted Ligety, in 12th. Chip Knight and Tom Rothrock also made the second run. Knight sits in 26th, Rothrock is 28th.

The storm that hung over Beaver Creek finally cleared out, leaving cold temperatures and occasional glimpses of the sun. The lower temperatures (7 degree Fahrenheit at the base of the mountain) meant rock-hard conditions at the top of the course, but a transition to more grippy conditions below.

While Raich and Matt have the Austrians in good shape, some members of the juggernaut didn’t fare as well. Manfred Pranger crashed and broke his thumb. His countryman Rainer Schoenfelder also took an impressive, cartwheeling fall just a few gates from the finish. Finally, homesick Michael Walchhofer was a DNS, having taken an early flight back to see his new twins.

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