Raich wins super-combi, Miller third; Maier withdraws in protest

Friday, February 3rd 2006, 11:00 am
By: News On 6

CHAMONIX, France (AP) _ Benjamin Raich came back from 17th place after the downhill leg to win a men's World Cup super-combi Friday and extend his lead atop the overall standings.

The Austrian completed the morning's shortened downhill and lengthy afternoon slalom to win in a combined time of 2 minutes, 36.48 seconds. Teammate Rainer Schoenfelder was runner-up in 2:37.31.

Raich has won three of the four combined events scheduled this season. Unfortunately, there is no World Cup title this season in the discipline.

The International Ski Federation, which says five races in a discipline are needed to award a title, will only start giving a crystal globe for the combined next season.

``This is too bad. I thought I had the title. I didn't realize there was no title,'' said Raich, who has collected 345 points in combined this season, while teammate Michael Walchhofer has only 200. ``But I'm proud because I worked very good in the speed disciplines and you can see it in these results.

``Today I made a good run, especially in slalom. My downhill was not so good especially in the top part.''

Bode Miller, returning from a golfing break in Dubai, placed third in 2:37.47 for his third podium result in the combined this season.

``I think my head is consistently pretty much in the same place, but it was nice to take a break and play golf,'' Miller said.

Miller was fast on the upper section of the downhill but got hung up in a compression and thrown off his line, leaving him in 15th. Only a fast slalom leg allowed him to podium.

The reigning overall champion, who was second in the traditional combined event in Kitzbuehel, Austria, two weeks ago and third in the super-combi in Val d'Isere, France, in December, is a favorite for the Olympic title later this month.

Triple Olympic champion Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, who posted the fastest time in the morning's downhill leg, finished back with the pack after losing time all the way down the slalom track.

Hermann Maier, who initially hoped to get a strong result ahead of the Olympic combined event, was third-quickest in the downhill but later withdrew from the race in protest.

The Austrian was unhappy with the race's format, arguing that the downhill had been shortened too much and the slalom leg was too long, favoring the technical skiers.

The downhill was shortened 530 meters and the slalom included 64 gates.

``This is not fair this way,'' Maier said. ``It looks like they try to get two slalom runs in one now. It's not good for downhillers. Slalom skiers have a big advantage.''

Maier is considering competing in the traditional combined event _ which adds the times from a downhill to the times of two slalom legs _ at the Olympics.

Raich, Walchhofer and Schoenfelder have three of the four berths available on the Austrian squad. The fourth Austrian who was supposed to compete, Mario Matt, suffered a hard crash in Wednesday's downhill training session and was forced to head home.

Matt suffered no specific injuries but was bruised and battered. It is uncertain whether he can compete at the Olympics.

The super-combi _ which consists of a downhill and a one-run slalom staged the same day _ was introduced last season. The traditional combination adds the times of a weekend's downhill and slaloms, run on different days.

Only one race remains before the Olympics, Saturday's downhill, and nine World Cup races remain this season. After 30, Raich leads the overall standings with 1,065 points. Walchhofer is second with 820, followed by Miller with 748.