of the gondola and bring a shovel. As a matter of pride, The Downhill was going to be held if it was
The trains arrived and the streets began to fill. It was “game on.”
“I think for every racer, Kitzbeuhel is pretty much the pinnacle,” said Bode Miller. “Challenging the skier
is one of the specialties of this hill. It pushes the skier to the very edge and that’s something I really like
and respect.” He was soon to demonstrate just exactly where that edge was.
Downhill morning saw clear skies, but only briefly. By start time it was snowing and foggy with the storm
gathering strength. The start was lowered. Fat, wet flakes coated the goggles and hampered visibility
in light already flattened out by thick clouds. Seeing the subtle contours of the surface? Forget about it.
Running at all was going to take courage. Winning was going to take something extra. The spectators, if
they could see as far as the Jumbotron, would be treated to something special.
The winner, of course, was Cuche. He was popular, being the oldest winner in World Cup history, having already announced his retirement and being the first five-time victor. He is, however, also Swiss. Not
only have the homestanding Austrians failed to a downhill yet this season, but they also haven’t had a
Kitzbuehel downhill winner since Michael Walchhofer in 2006. Plus it was two iconic Austrians (
Klammer and Schranz) from whom Cuche had taken the record. While there were three Austrians — Romed
Baumann with one of the best races of his life in second, Klaus Kroell in third and Joachim Puchner
fourth — packed within four-tenths of his winning time, the wily Cuche had found just the right combination of line and risk. Klammer, who never misses the Hahnenkamm, smiled, applauded and offered his
“I think,” said Cuche, “we were both a bit nervous.”
Klammer said, “He showed everyone how to do it.”
The Austrian team, since Walchhofer’s retirement, is young. The only man on the roster with any World
Cup downhill win to his name is Kroell, and he has just two. The three in the top-four showing was really
Puchner, 24, said even in “the naturally ungrateful position” of fourth that the race was “a big moment
Baumann, just turning 26, said his run was “my greatest sporting achievement.”
The more seasoned Kroell pointed out the shortened course and said it was fun “to go powder skiing
on the Streif.”
The buzz of the day, the run people were talking about, was that of Bode Miller.
As always, he attacked, a feat made considerably more difficult by the fresh, grabby snow coating the
course. A ski caught, got dragged behind at an angle well over 45 degrees. He not only managed to stay
upright, but also when he was then launched into the air unweighting both skis, he brought it back under
him and shifted back to bang through the next gate. (See the video below.)
“It feels good to make a save like that just because, you know, those are lifesavers right there,” said
Miller. “A hundred points is great, but I’d much rather be in the finish with all my parts intact.”