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Tech specialists take aim at Rahlves' overall lead at Adelboden

Tech specialists take aim at Rahlves’ overall lead at AdelbodenADELBODEN, Switzerland – The World Cup circuit’s technical specialists will attempt to knock Daron Rahlves off the top of the overall standings at this weekend’s giant slalom and slalom races on the treacherous Chuenisbaergli course.

Rahlves became the unexpected overall leader last week, replacing American teammate Bode Miller after posting his second downhill victory of the season in Bormio, Italy. After 16 races, Rahlves has 489 points to Miller’s 471.

Gate experts Benjamin Raich and Hermann Maier of Austria, as well as allrounder Miller, could all unseat Rahlves.

But even if Rahlves doesn’t compete in Sunday’s slalom, he could still pad his advantage in Saturday’s giant slalom.

Formerly a speed specialist, Rahlves began to show podium potential in a third discipline last season, crossing third in the opening run of the giant slalom here.

He then looked on the verge of recording his first career win in the discipline, leading at the final interval of the second run. But he lost control on the steep final pitch, hitting a bump at an estimated 70 kph (45 mph), and cartwheeling into a full backward somersault.

Italian Massimiliano Blardone took the victory, ahead of Miller and Kalle Palander of Finland. Rahlves walked away but the accident hampered his World Cup downhill title campaign, his bruises and sore muscles keeping him out of action for the following week’s Lauberhorn downhill.

But the Chuenisbaergli appeals to Rahlves, known for his love of ”gnarly” courses. The steepest and most spectacular giant slalom course on the tour, the Chuenisbaergli boasts some of the most spectacular and technically demanding passages.

The Kanonenrohr passage is the steepest starting slope on the giant slalom circuit and runs into the Schnittenmedli, the demanding and unrelenting middle section.

Skiers must then negotiate the Strassenuebergang, a troublesome compression where Sunday’s slalom starts. After passing through the Chaelae, racers then battle the extremely steep and demanding finishing slope.

The traditional Chuenisbaergli is one of the classics among the alpine ski events, with races staged here 10 years before the creation of the World Cup.

With the Winter Olympics just a month away, competition will be tight as skiers attempt to solidify their chances of being selected for their national teams.

Blardone will be looking to repeat, while Palander, who won the previous year but has struggled this season, will want to break through here. Maier, a three-time giant slalom winner here, will also be looking to beef up a slightly disappointing season so far.

Miller, another favorite whose results have not matched last year’s, is returning from a trip to North America following the downhill in Bormio, where he suffered a spectacular crash in training.

Speculation in Austrian newspapers of Miller flying home to undergo secret emergency knee surgery was dismissed by U.S. team officials, who said Miller went home for his own reasons, not for medical procedures.

An interview with the 28-year-old Miller will air on the TV news show ”60 Minutes” Sunday, in which he talks about the Olympics, his partying and drinking.

– The Associated Press

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