BEAVER CREEK – After their one-two finish in the Visa Birds of Prey Men's Downhill last year, American teammates Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves were set to defend their historic feat of last season. Over the weekend at the 2005 Visa Birds of Prey Race Week, American fans were not disappointed.
On Friday, Rahlves and Miller finished first and second, respectively, in the Men's Downhill – the second consecutive year the two teammates have claimed the two top spots in this event.
"It's almost anti-climatic" said U.S. Ski Team assistant coach Pete "Baby Huey" Lavin. "Heading to Torino, we're the boys to beat now."
Rahlves edged his teammate by .26 seconds with a winning time of one minute and 13.37 seconds on a course more than a mile long. At the 2004 event, Miller claimed the win, while Rahlves occupied the runner-up position.
The return to the podium for Rahlves and Miller marks a repeat of history, and also the beginning of something new for the U.S. Ski Team.
With Rahlves and Miller ranked first and second, respectively, in the World Cup overall standings, it appeared Lavin///s prediction holds water.
Also notable is the absence of any formidable opposition to the American tide, with Austrians Michael Walchhofer, Benjamin Raich and Hermann Maier – all intimidating challengers for the Americans last season – failing to produce any challenging efforts this week.
In the Men's Downhill event Friday, reigning World Cup Downhill champion Walchhofer finished 12th, while defending World Cup Giant Slalom and Slalom champion Benjamin Raich tied for 19th with his teammate, four-time World Cup Overall Champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Maier.
With the Torino Olympic Winter Games just 10 weeks away, it seems the tides of ski racing have shifted.
The U.S. Ski Team has been ushered into the upper echelons of World Cup alpine ski racing on the coattails of its athletes' successes at this event at Beaver Creek. Now, its sights are set on Olympic victory.