Fresh off a successful Olympics, Bode Miller is back for another World Cup season and unlike a year ago he has a full summer of training behind him.
He’s even lost some weight.
“Bode’s feeling healthy and he’s been training and conditioning much more than he did last year,” U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said last week after a 10-day training block almost exclusively with Miller on Swiss and Austrian glaciers. “He’s in pretty good shape.”
Last year, Miller took the entire summer off while he considered retirement, then rejoined the U.S. Ski Team after racing independently for two seasons. Peaking in midseason, he won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Vancouver Games in super-combi, super-G and downhill.
The 2010-11 season opens this weekend with men’s and women’s giant slaloms on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria.
Miller won the overall World Cup in 2004-05 and 2007-08 but has won just one race on the circuit the past two seasons — a super-combi in Wengen, Switzerland, in January, that geared him up for his Olympic performance.
“Last year was definitely just the Olympics,” Rearick said. “This season he wants to be out there and competitive every day.”
He has just turned 33 and many would suggest that Miller concentrate solely on speed events — the downhill and super-G. That’s not a view Miller shares.
“He’s training all events and plans on racing slalom, GS, super-G and downhill,” Rearick said.
While Miller did skip the U.S. team’s second summer camp in New Zealand, he came into Europe early to make up for lost time. That’s given him an opportunity to work out plans for his personal motor home.
When Miller left the U.S. team several seasons ago the main reason was that the squad saw his motor home as a source of division. Now it’s come to the point that the team is going to help him with logistical arrangements at races.
“I fully support him doing that,” Rearick said. “A guy his age being on the road that long, having a consistent place to sleep and call home while you’re on the road I think is a good thing.”
Taking a cue from Miller, the team has a larger mobile kitchen to travel the circuit this season, and will also drive a rolling gym from one European race to another.
While Miller enters the season sharply focused, teammate Ted Ligety could face more challenges after a complete change of equipment, having joined Miller with Head skis and boots.
Ligety has a new ski man and will also have to get accustomed to a new tech coach, with Mike Day replacing Rudi Soulard.
“It’s a challenge but he’s up for it. He’s keeping things very positive,” Rearick said. “When you switch everything it takes a while to dial everything in.”
Still not a giant slalom specialist, surprise Olympic super-G bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht won’t open his season until the circuit comes to North America with races in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Beaver Creek, Colo., in November and early December.
On the women’s side, Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn wants to break her American single-season record of 11 World Cup wins set last year and take aim at the all-time record of 14 victories set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.
That would also boost Vonn into the top five on the career win list, where she currently sits tied for sixth with Hanni Wenzel with 33 wins each.
“She’s definitely moving up that list, but something like that you can’t plan,” said new U.S. women’s head coach Alex Hoedlmoser. “You just go out and try to go race by race.”
Julia Mancuso, Vonn’s teammate and longtime rival, put two disappointing seasons behind her with two silvers in Vancouver. She also made an equipment change, keeping her Lange boots but switching from Rossignol to Voelkl skis.
Despite the change, Hoedlmoser believes Mancuso can be a threat for the overall title for the first time since 2007-08.
“Her condition is really solid, she’s been training a lot, and she’s happy,” said Hoedlmoser, an Austrian who has been on the U.S. team’s staff since 1998. “I really think that she can be strong in a lot of events again.”
Having already launched her own lingerie line, Mancuso recently posed nude in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue.
“I have always been an advocate to girls and women to have a positive body image,” Mancuso wrote in her online blog. “It’s your choice how much time you spend working out, and how motivated you want to be at getting the body you want. I have nothing to hide! and now the pictures to prove it.
“I won’t lie and say I didn’t blush when I picked up the copy and saw that my photo was a TWO PAGE SPREAD!!! WHAT!” Mancuso added. “It was quite a surprise, and it does feel like I suddenly got to the top of my run and found out I forgot my clothes.”