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Kranjska Gora: Benni Raich wins giant slalom; Schlopy and Cochran 6-7

Kranjska Gora: Benni Raich wins giant slalom; Schlopy and Cochran 6-7KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia – Benjamin Raich needed one good race and a second straight spill by Bode Miller to be back in the hunt for the overall WorldCup title.

Last year, Raich pushed the American for the overall title down to the final week of the season.

Before the Austrian won Wednesday’s giant slalom on the tough Kranjska Gora slope – where Miller and Hermann Maier both fell – he was ninth in the overall standings.

Now Raich is in third place with 430 points, 12 points behind Miller. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway is second with 437 points.

”It’s not important – I want to be first at the end of the season,” Raich said.

Raich won his first race of the season and his 17th career WorldCup victory in 2 minutes, 22.46 seconds. He was exactly a second ahead of Italy’s Massimiliano Blardone at 2:23.46.

Miller – fifth in the first run – lost control at the top of the slope and fell sideways on the second run. That proved costly in the standings, since the American also fell four days ago in a giant slalom won by Blardone.
After a careful first run, Miller ran into trouble when he got aggressive.

”It was hard to attack because the light was so flat. It was hard to tell distances,” Miller said. ”It was more reacting than acting.”

Miller had hoped to do well at Kranjska Gora and the races last weekend at Italy’s Alta Badia.

”He ran into a little trouble, but Bode is so confident he’ll just forget about it,” U.S. slalom and giant slalom coach Mike Morin said. ”I was with Bode when he failed to finish 17 slaloms in a row, so there’s no alarm. Bode pushes hard all the time, sometimes he comes out the winner, sometimes he loses.”

Raich’s coach had predicted all week that the 27-year-old was ready to break out. The skier told everyone he wasn’t in a panic about his slow season start.

But the race, he said, turned out to be one of the hardest of the year.

”I was astounded I won by a second because I didn’t feel so good – I wasn’t calm and it was a hard race,” Raich said. ”But if you make a few mistakes on this slope, a second will come together.”

Blardone has 240 points in the giant slalom standings with Raich at 186 and Miller falling from first to third at 180. There is just one race in the discipline left before the Olympics.

Raich clocked 1:10.46 to lead after first run, with Maier second at 1:10.73. There was a gap of nearly a second between the leader and third-place Daron Rahlves, who also skidded out on the second run.

Canada’s Thomas Grandi finished the day third in 2:23.61 and said he thought the Austrians were especially motivated for the race.

”They came out aggressive. Don’t you think they were mad at what the Italians did at home in Alta Badia?” said Grandi, who returned to the podium for the first time since winning a giant slalom at Flachau last December.

The Italians finished 1-2 in the giant slalom and won the slalom last weekend.

On the second run, Maier hit a bump and flew high into the air on a turn, where the skiers are plunged into shadows just as they run into a series of bumps.

He lay motionless for a minute before climbing to his feet, leading to cheers from the spectators. The Austrian made a well-publicized comeback from a motorcycle accident two years ago that almost ended his career.

Raich called Kranjska Gora one of the toughest courses on the tour.

”First, it’s very steep, it’s hard to see and … it’s very bumpy – those three things make it very tough,” the Austrian said.

On Thursday, a slalom will be held on the same slope.

The problems of Miller and Rahlves spoiled a good performance by the Americans, with Erik Schlopy taking sixth and James Cochran seventh, the 24-year-old’s best finish ever.

Schlopy, ninth in the first run, produced his second top 10 as he had a two-run time of 2:23.96. Cochran, 14th in the first run, collected the first top 10 of his career, finishing in 2:24.08.

‘I thought this was the day ‘D’ [Rahlves] was gonna get his ‘W’ [win] in GS’ U.S. head coach Phil McNichol said. ‘He just went a little straight and this is a really unforgiving course because of the light, and that was it. He was out. In that first run, he was hauling ass – he made a mistake at the top and still was second in the first 25 seconds.

‘It was a blue-sky day but the sun doesn’t get to the race hill and the guys said you couldn’t see the ground. It was dark – I mean, dark – and it was super bumpy because it was iced. The course set was nice and the hill was prepared immaculately, but when you turn off the lights, it adds a whole other dimension’ McNichol said.

Schlopy had a ‘solid’ day, McNichol said, ‘but he has more to give; I know he’s got more gas in his tank. And how about Jimmy Cochran? What a day. You can see his confidence building since he had a second [Dec. 13] in a Europa Cup slalom at Alta Badia, and this showed what he can do in GS.’

– USSA contributed to this report.

Men’s giant slalom
Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
Dec. 21, 2005

1. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:22.46
2. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA 2:23.46
3. Thomas Grandi, CAN 2:23.61
4. Fredrik Nyberg, SWE 2:23.83
5. Manfred Moelgg, ITA 2:23.89
6. Erik Schlopy, USA 2:23.96
7. James Cochran, USA 2:24.08
8. Marco Buechel, LIE 2:24.15
9. Hannes Reichelt, AUT 2:24.25
10. Alberto Schieppati, ITA 2:24.33
11. Raphael Burtin, FRA 2:24.38
12. Davide Simoncelli, ITA 2:24.41
13. Didier Defago, SUI 2:24.42
14. Thomas Fantara, FRA 2:24.50
15. Mirko DeFlorian, ITA 2:24.70
16. Rainer Schoenfelder, AUT 2:24.78
17. Joel Chenal, FRA 2:24.84
18. Kalle Palander, FIN 2:24.99
19. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:25.06
20. Dane Spencer, USA 2:25.07
21. Giorgio Rocca, ITA 2:25.19
21. Christoph Gruber, AUT 2:25.19
23. Christian Mayer, AUT 2:25.30
24. Florian Eisath, ITA 2:25.41
25. Francois Bourgue, CAN 2:25.42
26. Ryan Semple, CAN 2:26.41
Other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Erik Guay, CAN; Ted Ligety, USA.
DNF 1st: Jean-Philippe Roy, John Kucera, Julien Cousineau, CAN; Tom Rothrock, Steven Nyman, USA.
DNF 2nd: Bode Miller, Daron Rahlves, USA.

By Hank McKee

Men’s GS, Kranjska Gora, Dec. 21, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Blardone, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3. Grandi, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
4. Nyberg, Fischer/Nordica/Fischer
5. Moelgg, Fischer/Lange/Fischer
6. Schlopy, Nordica/Marker/Look
7. Cochran, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
8. Buechel, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
9. Reichelt, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10. Schieppati, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol

Men’s giant slalom, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Dec. 21, 2005. … It is the 14th race of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … It is the fourth of eight scheduled giant slaloms. … The first of two races (GS and SL) at Kranjska Gora. … It is the 56th World Cup race held at the site. … The 27th GS.

It is the 17th career win for Benjamin Raich. … His first of the season. … Among Austrian men he is behind only Hermann Maier (51), Stephan Eberharter (29) and Franz Klammer (26) on the all-time Cup victory list. … It is his third win at Kranjska Gora, all of them in GS. … In 11 scoring results at Kranjska Gora, he has three wins, seven podiums and two fourths. … He is the only Austrian to win at Kranjska Gora since March 2000.

It is the sixth career podium for Massimiliano Blardone. … All in GS. … His first at Kranjska Gora. … It is his second podium of the season, the other a win at Alta Badia three days ago (Dec. 18). … Of his 39 World Cup scoring results, 38 are in G

It is the fifth career podium for Thomas Grandi, the first of the season. … All but one of his podiums have come since Dec. 19, 2004, though he scored his first points in 1993.

It is the 11th career top six for Erik Schlopy. … His second of the season (was also fourth Beaver Creek GS Dec. 3). … It is his second-best result at Kranjska Gora, having finished 4th Jan. 4, 2003, in GS. … It is a career-best placing for James Cochran, and his first score of the season. … It is the second time he has gained points at Kranjska Gora. … It is the 24th career scoring result for Dane Spencer. … His second of the season. … It is the 17th career scoring result for Francois Bourque. … His eighth of the season. … He is now ranked fifth in the GS standings. … It is the fourth scoring result of Ryan Semple’s career, and the first in GS (others in slalom). … It is his first score of the season. … Erik Guay and Ted Ligety finished the first run 31st and 32nd respectively, just missing the cut for a second run.

Bode Miller, (second-run DNF) maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 442-437 over Aksel Svindal (19th in race). …Benjamin Raich moves into third at 430. … Massimiliano Blardone has a substantial lead in the GS rankings 240-186 over Raich. … Miller holds third at 180. … Winning margin was a full second. … It is the largest winning margin of the season. … There were 13 skiers within two seconds.

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