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Miller Just Misses Italian Podium; Vonn Skis Off Course In France

Bode Miller at Beaver CreekThe news for Bode Miller, who is racing toward a Sochi Olympic comeback after taking a year off after injury, keeps getting better. The U.S. star finished the 46th Saslong Classic downhill in Val Gardena, Italy just .15 off the podium in a race that showed promise for the American men’s speed team.

Meanwhile, at Val d’Isere, France, Lindsey Vonn continued her comeback on the downhill track that bounced out 14 racers. Vonn got rattled in the mid-section of the course and decided to ski out, not finishing the race.

But, first to Val Gardena: It was Miller’s best speed finish of the season as he continues gaining strength for a Sochi push in a bit over a month. North Americans had a good day overall.

Canada’s Erik Guay picked up the win for his second career World Cup victory. American Steven Nyman, who won last year’s classic, was having a solid run before being knocked over the back of his skis on a roll, making a dramatic recovery to avoid a high speed crash. Erik Fisher skied to a 13th place finish from start number 37; Marco Sullivan, 16th; and Travis Ganong, 19th.

“On top, I didn’t feel like I was going fast,” Miller said. “I took a little bit of a risk in some parts and pulled off some decent turns… I’ve been skiing well.”

To Val d’Isere: American Stacey Cook had a podium run going before the bumps rocketed her into the nets, but she was not injured. Swiss Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden picked up her first career World Cup victory. Solvenia’s Tina Maze was second, with Austrian Cornelia Huetter third. American Alice McKennis returned to the race course for the first time since injuring her knee last spring and skied to a conservative 43rd.

Fresh snow had covered the Oreiller-Killy course Friday, cancelling the final downhill training run and creating the rattling conditions for the Saturday race. Laurenne Ross and Julia Ford joined Vonn and Cook in going off the course.

“I didn’t hurt myself more than I am already hurt,” said Vonn. “I had no chance of making that gate unfortunately.” She said she would stick to her plan and probably not race in more than one or two events before the Olympics.

Next up: A men’s Giant Slalom in Alta Baden, Italy Sunday where Ted Ligety hopes to get back to the top of the podium; a women’s GS in Val d’Isere where Mikaela Shiffrin hopes to continue making progress in that discipline.

Photo: Bode Miller at Beaver Creek earlier this winter (Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts/US Ski Team Smug Mug)
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