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Val Gardena: Buechel wins downhill, edging Walchhofer

Val Gardena: Buechel wins downhill, edging WalchhoferVAL GARDENA, Italy – Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein won his first World Cup downhill race Saturday amid snowdrifts, winds and poor visibility on a shortened course.

The race came on the same day the U.S. women had a historic one-two finish in France.

Buechel’s time was 1 minute, 27.99 seconds. Michael Walchhofer of Austria finished second for the fourth time in the downhill here, missing out on victory by 0.02 seconds.

Erik Guay of Canada was third, 0.20 back, to follow up his second place in Friday’s super G.

Italy’s Kristian Ghedina, who led both training sessions but normally struggles in bad conditions, placed fourth.

Bode Miller finished eighth and regained the lead in the overall standings from Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who placed 26th.

Miller has 442 points. Walchhofer moved into second with 420 points and Svindal dropped to third with 417.

Miller said he finished where he thought he would — even with the adverse conditions.

“These kind of conditions are pretty tough for me, so I don’t really take too much for it. The whole thing is a crapshoot,” Miller said. “There was wicked wind on the top coming off that first jump. On these kind of days there’s nothing you can do.”

The American is not focused on the overall race at this early stage of the season.

“The overall lasts a long time. People who look good now, a lot of times aren’t the guys who are there at the end,” Miller said.

Austria’s Fritz Strobl finished fifth to keep his lead atop the downhill standings.

It was the second World Cup win of Buechel’s career following a super G victory at Garmisch, Germany, in 2003. Buechel also won a silver medal in giant slalom at the 1999 World Championships.

I had good skis, the wind was in my favor and I skied very good,” Buechel said. “But I think winning by two-hundredths of a second is all about luck.”

Kristian Ghedina of Italy, who led both training sessions, placed fourth. Ghedina shares the Saslong record of four victories with Austrian great Franz Klammer, and plans to retire at the end of this season.

“I might shed some tears, because I feel really close to this course,” he said. “Mostly though, I’m content, the Saslong has really done a lot for my career.”

Snow and strong winds delayed the start of the race by 75 minutes. The course was also shortened by more than a kilometer (0.62 miles) and several jumps, including the famous Camel Jumps, were removed.

Miller will be among the favorites as the World Cup circuit traverses the Gardena pass for Sunday’s giant slalom in Alta Badia, where Miller won in 2002.

“It is a good course for me, it’s tough,” Miller said. “If the weather is like this it’s really tough. You need good visibility on that hill, it’s so steep you can’t see anything anyway. Hopefully we’ll get better conditions.”

OLN will televise coverage from Val Gardena Sunday at 5 p.m. ET as part of its “10 Weeks to Torino” series on World Cup racing.

Scott Macartney tied for 11th (1:28.90) and Daron Rahlves 18th.

– The Associated Press/USSA

Men’s downhill
Val Gardena, Italy
Dec. 17, 2005

1. Marco Buechel, LIE 1:27.99
2. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 1:28.01
3. Erik Guay, CAN 1:28.19
4. Kristian Ghedina, ITA 1:28.42
5. Fritz Strobl, AUT 1:28.46
6. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 1:28.58
7. Antoine Deneriaz, FRA 1:28.61
8. Bode Miller, USA 1:28.73
9. Didier Defago, SUI 1:28.85
10. Norbert Holzknecht, AUT 1:28.86
11. Bruno Kernen, SUI 1:28.90
11. Scott Macartney, USA 1:28.90
13. Johan Grugger, AUT 1:28.96
14. Hermann Maier, AUT 1:29.00
15. Andreas Buder, AUT 1:29.02
16. Manuel Osborne-Paradis, CAN 1:29.04
17. AJ Bear, AUS 1:29.11
18. Andrej Jerman, SLO 1:29.22
19. Daron Rahlves, USA 1:29.29
20. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 1:29.48
21. Silvan Zurbriggen, SUI 1:29.53
22. Klaus Kroell, AUT 1:29.58
23. Patrick Jaerbyn, SWE 1:29.60
24. Andreas Schifferer, AUT 1:29.72
25. Finlay Mickel, GBR 1:29.78
26. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 1:29.85
27. Justin Johnson, USA 1:29.88
28. Konrad Hari, SUI 1:29.89
29. Stefan Thanei, ITA 1:29.92
30. Christoph Gruber, AUT 1:29.98
Other North Americans
35. John Kucera, CAN 1:30.49
36. Steven Nyman, USA 1:30.61
37. Marco Sullivan, USA 1:30.93

By Hank McKee

Men’s DH, Val Gardena, Dec. 17, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Buechel, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
2. Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Guay, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Ghedina, Fischer/Lange/Fischer
5. Strobl, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6. Aamodt, Dynastar/Lange/Tyrolia
7. Deneriaz, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8. Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Defago, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
10. Holzknecht, Head/Lange/Tyrolia

It is the 12th race of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … It is the fourth of 10 scheduled DH’s. … It is the 48th Saslong Classic at Val Gardena. … Race delayed by falling snow. … Race halted after 40 starters.

It is the second career victory for Marco Buechel, the other in SG at Garmich Feb. 23, 2003. … It is the 51st World Cup win for Liechtenstein. … Buechel has also been third this season in DH at Lake Louise (Nov. 26). … Markus Foser was the last Liechtensteiner to win Val Gardena Dec. 17, 1993.

It is the 28th career podium result for Michael Walchhofer. … 20 of them in DH. … It is his third podium of the season, the other two back-to-back wins (cmb & DH) at Val d’Isere. … Walchhofer has been second in DH at Val Gardena four of the last five seasons (he was 20th last year).

It is the fourth career podium for Erik Guay. … Three of them this season. … two of them at Val Gardena this season. … It is the best Canadian DH result at Val Gardena since Ed Podivinsky was third Dec. 17, 1999.

Fourth-place finisher Kristian Ghedina had won at Val Gardena four times. …It is the second straight eighth-place finish for Bode Miller. … He has never done better at Val Gardena. … It is the best DH result of Scott Macartney’s career. … He has collected personal bests in discipline in each of his last two starts. … It is the eighth career scoring result for Manuel Osborne-Paradis. … Three of those have come this season and all of them in the last calendar year. … It is the 143rd scoring result for Daron Rahlves. … His seventh of the season with the other six all better finishes. … It is the second career scoring finish for Justin Johnson. … He was also 24th in DH at Val Gardena last season.

Bode Miller holds the World Cup overall standings lead 442-420 over Michael Walchhofer. … Aksel Svindal (26th in race) is third at 417. … Canadian Erik Guay is now fifth overall with 344 points. … Fritz Strobl (fifth in race) leads the DH standings 275-242 over Walchhofer. … Buechel is third at 206. … Miller is the top American in the DH standings at seventh with 157 points. … Guay is eighth at 150 and Daron Rahlves ninth at 130. … Winning margin is two-hundredths. … Top 13 finish within the same second. … Entire scoring field of 30 within two seconds.

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