At 41, Daron Rahlves takes course as forerunner at worlds
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) At 41 and almost a decade removed from his last World Cup downhill race, Daron Rahlves wants one last crack at a demanding Birds of Prey course he knows so well.
Don't worry, the former U.S. ski racer promises to take it easy.
He's out for video, not a victory.
Rahlves will serve as an honorary forerunner before the men's downhill race Saturday, capturing images with cameras mounted on his ski boot and helmet. He said he will only fly down the steep course filled with big jumps at about 60 percent of what he's capable. He will leave the real racing to Bode Miller, Kjetil Jansrud and the rest of the world's top speedsters.
But Rahlves reserves the right to change his mind. After all, Rahlves knows the nuances of this course and where to find hidden speed about as well as anyone. He's won twice at Beaver Creek, including in 2003 when he turned in a fast and furious run.
So fast and furious that U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick recently asked Rahlves to bring the video over to show the team.
''It's the fastest run down the mountain still,'' said Rahlves, who hasn't raced a World Cup speed event at this venue since 2005, when he won the downhill.
Not all that surprising, since he was once king of speed on the U.S. team before Miller's rise to prominence. Rahlves competed at three Olympics with the ski team, won 12 World Cup races and captured a world championship super-G title in 2001. He then switched over to the U.S. freestyle squad and competed in ski cross at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
This week, he's in Beaver Creek for some corporate events - and to ski this hill again. Although, being here makes him miss racing.
''That's why I'm reliving it in a way,'' said Rahlves, who lives in Truckee, California. ''I can't race down the mountain, but I can at least ski down the mountain with some downhill skis on and a (speed) suit. I'm excited.''
Could he still race?
''With no training? And off the couch like I am right now?'' Rahlves said. ''I know how much work goes in to get yourself ready to race. I'm not even close to that level.''
He likes the chances of the 37-year-old Miller, who had back surgery to fix a herniated disk in November.
''Bode knows this hill. He's a winner on this hill,'' Rahlves said. ''He's got nothing to lose. He's got the talent and the skills and if his head is there, which I think it is, I would not be surprised if he comes down with the fastest time here.''
Same with Aksel Lund Svindal. Although the 32-year-old Norwegian tore his left Achilles in October, he will still be in the start gate for the super-G.
''He's got a good shot as well,'' Rahlves said. There's a bunch of guys (who can win). That's what makes racing fun.''
Here are things to know before the super-G Thursday:
PERFECT CONDITIONS: The race was postponed Wednesday because of snow and wind. Those kinds of conditions are well-suited for American Andrew Weibrecht. In 2007 at this venue, Weibrecht started at position No. 53. With the course rutted and snow heavily falling, he charged to 10th that day.
TRIBUTE: Two U.S. team prospects killed in an avalanche last month will be honored Thursday. As a tribute to Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, an honorary forerunner will be sent down the course before the men's super-G race. Berlack was a forerunner at the Beaver Creek race in December. The parents of both skiers will be in attendance.
SNOW FUN: Kjetil Jansrud of Norway says the snow conditions have changed quite a bit since he won a downhill race at Beaver Creek in December. ''The snow feels softer,'' Jansrud said. ''Still, I like the hill.''
TIGER & LINDSEY: Asked how much it meant to her to have boyfriend Tiger Woods cheering her in the finish area Wednesday when she finished with the bronze medal, Lindsey Vonn said: ''Of course I'm happy he's supporting me.''
CHAMPIONS: American Ted Ligety won the super-G world title two years ago in Austria and Christof Innerhofer of Italy captured the title in 2011 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. ''Take all the risk, cross the finish line and say I cannot give more. This is my goal,'' Innerhofer said.