Raich wins giant slalom; Miller falls

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ADELBODEN, Switzerland (AP) – Olympic champion Benjamin Raich rediscovered his winning touch, capturing a World Cup giant slalom for the first time this season. For Bode Miller, it was more of the same – he failed to finish.

Miller, a contender this season the overall standings, appeared to misjudge the slope Saturday. He dropped onto his side and veered off course. Ted Ligety was the top American, finishing 17th.

“Today was a sad way to begin the new year,” U.S. coach Phil McNichol said. “It was a very poor showing from our guys with how strong we’ve been. Bode went out. Ted had his worse finish in any World Cup race he’s finished.

Raich of Austria had a combined time of 2 minutes, 25.29 seconds on his two runs on the Kuonisbaergli course for his 25th career World Cup victory.

Massimiliano Blardone of Italy, who won the season-opening giant slalom, finished second in 2:26.14. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was third in 2:26.29, padding his lead atop the World Cup overall standings.

Olympic slalom and combined bronze medalist Rainer Schoenfelder, who injured his head and neck during a crash in training Wednesday, was disqualified in the first leg after kicking out of the start hut too early.

The Adelboden giant slalom is the last before the world championships next month in Are, Sweden.

The U.S. team entered only five skiers because it has lost several to injury, including Erik Schlopy, who is out for the season with knee damage.

McNichol told The Associated Press that Bryon Friedman re-fractured his lower leg. Friedman was making his comeback this season after shattering both shins in his lower right leg during training two years ago.

“It’s a hairline fracture where it was repaired so he’s out for a while,” McNichol said.

Jake Zamansky is sidelined after tearing knee ligaments last month in Austria. The team expects him back in four to five weeks.

“We’ve definitely lost a lot of guys this year,” Ligety said. “It’s tough losing guys like Schlopy. He’s been everywhere. He’s the veteran so it’s tough to lose him. Definitely it’s a smaller team. It definitely makes the coaches more cautious about managing us.”

Raich had only one top-three result this season, a victory in the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland.

“I was a little nervous at the start of the second leg but just enough to keep me on my toes,” said Raich, who was leading after the first run. “It’s great to win here again. It was really tough, especially on a long and difficult course like this one.”

Raich is the only Austrian to record a top-three result in a technical discipline this season, but is in danger of losing his World Cup overall and giant slalom titles to Svindal, who leads in both.

Svindal tops the overall standings after 17 races with 639 points. Didier Cuche, who placed seventh, moved into second position with 571. The Swiss skier overtook Miller, who remained at 540.

“I’ve never been fast in Adelboden, so I didn’t think I’d be able to keep the leader’s jersey,” said Svindal, whose best career result on this slope was 15th in 2004. “But I still have it.”

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