Miller poised for breakthrough in Bormio

Posted Dec. 28, 2010, at 12:35 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 28, 2010, at 9:43 p.m.

BORMIO, Italy (AP) — Bode Miller feels ready to get back on the podium.

After collecting gold, silver and bronze medals at the Vancouver Olympics, Miller’s best finish this season is eighth in the opening downhill a month ago in Lake Louise, Alberta.

The World Cup downhill Wednesday in Bormio, on a course where Miller has had three victories and nine top-10 finishes during his career, should present a solid opportunity for him to get back on track.

Miller showed his potential by placing fourth in the final training session on Tuesday.

“It’s just matching up the right setup and the right tactics and the right race day conditions,” Miller said. “I know the course. I don’t need to inspect it much, so it’s just execution.”

Other favorites include Klaus Kroell of Austria, who led the final training session, and Christof Innerhofer of Italy, who led Monday’s opening training run and won this race two years ago.

Miller swept both speed races — super-G and downhill — on the Stelvio course during the 2005 world championships, in which he also completed a memorable one-ski descent during the combined event. His other win in Bormio came in 2007.

Miller didn’t train speed over the summer and is still tinkering with his equipment. But the Stelvio is such a tough course — most skiers consider it the most physically demanding on the circuit — that equipment is usually not the deciding factor.

“It’s just pretty turny and there’s not a ton of gliding, so even if your skis aren’t running the very best, you don’t have to rely on having very fast skis that day,” Miller said. “Whereas on some hills, if you don’t have fast skis that day, you just don’t win.”

Coaches have been urging the 33-year-old Miller to scale back his schedule. He was slated to skip this race.

“But he decided he wanted to go,” said U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick, adding that Miller has been “putting in tremendous effort” in training, and that “there’s still a lot more speed in him.”

At 2.03 miles, the Stelvio trails only the classic Lauberhorn in Wengen, Switzerland, as the longest course on the circuit. But the constant bumps from top to bottom and shade nearly all the way down result in almost every skier bending down to their knees in exhaustion upon reaching the finish.

“For two minutes straight you’re turning, you’re edge to edge, you’re trying not to fight the hill and ski it as clean as you can and carry the speed,” said Canada’s Robbie Dixon. “In Wengen, you’re cruising and searching for speed and gliding. It’s different.”

Meanwhile, Marco Sullivan of the United States and Louis-Pierre Helie of Canada crashed in training Tuesday. They were to fly to a hospital that specialized in head injuries in Innsbruck, Austria.

Innerhofer didn’t expend much energy in the final training, placing 34th.

“The race is tomorrow, so it’s doesn’t make any sense to put all the effort in today,” he said. “I already had a good run yesterday and the line is pretty clear. I feel good on this course, it’s steep and turny and that’s what I like.”

Two-time overall World Cup winner Aksel Lund Svindal is competing with a fractured rib — the result of a recent fall in Val Gardena — although the Norwegian said it doesn’t bother him while skiing.

Swiss veteran Didier Cuche, who was third in the final training session, has modest goals.

“Just finishing here is an accomplishment,” Cuche said. “So being in the top five would satisfy me.”

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