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Birds of Prey GS belongs to Kjus, Europeans

AP Photo Norway's Lasse Kjus races past a gate in the second run on his way to winning the the World Cup Giant Slalom at Beaver Creek on Saturday. Kjus was joined on the podium by Austrians Hermann Maier and Benjamin Raich. Today's slalom marks the final of four straight days of racing at Beaver Creek.
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BEAVER CREEK – Lasse Kjus and Hermann Maier got to party like it was 1999 Saturday on the Birds of Prey podium.The two graying World Cup giants, who shared a gold medal in super-G at the 1999 World Alpine Skiing Championships in Beaver Creek, found themselves in a similar spot after Kjus won the giant slalom with a combined two-run time of 2 minutes, 29.82 seconds and Maier finished second in 2:30.27.Maier’s teammate Benjamin Raich was third in 2:30:46. American teammates Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves both crashed in their first runs a day after making history with a 1-2 finish in the downhill.The podium scene may have a been familiar one, considering Maier has won eight World Cup races on the Birds of Prey and Kjus has landed on the podium here six times.

So ho-hum, right?Wrong. That Kjus picked up his 17th World Cup win in GS, a discipline in which he hadn’t won since 1996, was a surprise. That Maier finished second was a surprise also since the Herminator’s last top-three GS finishes date back to 2001.”It’s like, when you are not so often skiing fast in giant slalom, you never know if you’re fast or not,” Kjus said. “I think I was a little surprised because I’m so used to being disappointed when I come down seeing my time. It was a great feeling to see I was No. 1.”Maier was also pleasantly startled when he saw his time.”It’s a perfect day for me,” he said. “I never suspected it, especially in giant slalom. The fast disciplines are better for me. It’s always, I’m on the top here.”

Second chancesIt was apparent that Saturday was going to be a different day after Rahlves and Miller crashed in their first runs – a world of difference, really.Erik Schlopy of Park City, Utah, who is back this season after blowing out his knee in the GS in front of a home crowd last year in the second race of the season, was the lone American to end up in the top 10.Schlopy jumped into second place behind Goergl after an aggressive second run that gave him a combined time of 2:30.83.He continued to slip down the leader board, however, after Raich took the lead with his second run. Maier then took the lead himself, running 24th, before Kjus moved ahead of him running 26th. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway also moved ahead of Schlopy and into fourth with his time of 2:30.54.



With a brilliant afternoon sun bearing down for the second set of runs, the snow on the GS course became noticeably softer. That led to times which were almost two seconds longer, on average, for each racer.Maier and Kjus said the snow on course was ideal for them and that the warm temperatures made it easier to cope with their respective ailments.Kjus has been fighting a respiratory affliction that kept him out of Friday’s downhill and Maier’s right knee on the leg he nearly lost in a 2001 motorcyle accident still bothers him.”Today, it was much warmer and I like it warmer,” Maier said. “I don’t have so much problems with the knee. I had problems with the knee today, too, but it’s easier for me for skiing.”Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com.


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