Bode Miller finished fourth in the opening Kitzbuehel downhill training run, then was 20th with a relaxed run on the second day (Getty Images/AFP/Dimitar Dilkoff)
KITZBUEHEL, Austria (Jan. 18) - Few places in the world of downhill ski racing strike as much fear and adrenaline into the hearts of racers and fans as Kitzbuehel. Winning takes razor nerve and the guts of a champion. Those who doubt their abilities for the slightest moment can receive a swift and unrelenting beating.
Defending Hahnenkamm downhill champion Didier Cuche of Switzerland claimed the 2011 victory by nearly a full second by tucking over the Mausefalle, a shear ice drop just seconds from the start. Respect from racers, like second place finisher Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) was universal. Cuche again set the pace in Wednesday's second training run, while Miller was fourth in the opening day. The Hahnenkamm is the only major downhill the American Olympic gold medalist has yet to claim.
The 72nd Hahnenkamm race weekend opens Friday with super G, followed by the legendary downhill Saturday and a slalom Sunday. The prize money is big, yet all champions have their name blazoned to the side of the Hahnenkammbahn gondola. And that, is legend.
Bode Miller was fourth and 20th in the first two downhill training runs
Miller has been second in the Streif downhill twice ('08, '11), yet has never won the January classic
Swiss Didier Cuche has own the downhill the last three times ('08,'10,'11)
Cuche was third and first in the opening training runs
Miller trails Wengen champion Beat Feuz (also Swiss) by 41 in the World Cup downhill standings
Miller has never won the season-long World Cup downhill title
Ted Ligety, Andrew Weibrecht, Marco Sullivan, Travis Ganong, Erik Fisher and Wiley Maple are also slated to start the downhill
Tommy Ford and Tommy Biesemeyer will join the speed team in Friday's super G
Miller, Ligety, Nolan Kasper, Will Brandenburg, Jimmy Cochran and Colby Granstrom will race Sunday's slalom
Kitzbuehel will also award prize money and World Cup points to a traditional combined champion on Sunday
A mix of snow and rain is predicted in the Kitzbuehel forecast through the weekend
QUOTES Bode Miller I think for every racer, Kitzbeuhel is pretty much the pinnacle. It's an awesome hill and has got huge tradition. But Wengen has huge tradition as well; Adelboden has huge tradition. But Kitzbuehel has that prestige to it being the Hahnenkamm. 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.
You definitely can remember the first time here because it's something you have to overcome in the start to come out and race this hill. You feel fear every time on this hill. That's not that uncommon I don't think. You get scared at the start of Bormio and Beaver Creek too. The thing that stands out about downhill is that if you're going to try to ski it hard it is very dangerous, that's just how it is.
The thing that stands out about Kitzbuehel is you can't go that slow. Off the Mausefalle it's pretty fast regardless how you ski. On race day when you're pushing the limits as hard as you can and looking for every 100th of a second you can find on the course there's a little more fear. When you are pushing that hard it definitely gets a little sketchy.