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Michael Walchhofer wins downhill, Bode Miller 8th in Italy

By Andrew Dampf

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 29 2010 7:07 a.m. MST

Bode Miller, of the United States, speeds down the course on his way to place eighth in an alpine ski World Cup men's downhill race, in Bormio, Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010.

Alessandro Trovati, Associated Press

BORMIO, Italy — Michael Walchhofer of Austria added another victory to his farewell season Wednesday, becoming the first skier to win the grueling World Cup downhill on the Stelvio course three times.

In his final season before retirement, Walchhofer clocked 1 minute, 59.66 on the circuit's most physically demanding layout for his third victory this season and the 18th of his career.

Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland was the only other skier to break 2 minutes, finishing just 0.08 seconds behind. Christof Innerhofer of Italy was third in sunny and cold conditions with the temperature hovering just below the freezing level.

Bode Miller finished eighth, matching his best result this season. The American was on pace for a podium spot midway down but went slightly off line in the lower section, when racers' legs are burning from the constant turns and bumps, most of which are covered with shade.

Retired Austrian great Hermann Maier won four races overall on the Stelvio, but only two downhills. Miller has three victories here, with two in downhill.

While most skiers were bent over in exhaustion upon crossing the finish line, the 35-year-old Walchhofer had enough energy for a celebration that included a few quick slalom turns before he came to a stop.

Walchhofer's two other downhill wins in Bormio came on consecutive days in 2006.

Zurbriggen, who won his first career downhill in Val Gardena this month, took the lead in the overall standings from American Ted Ligety, who skipped this race. Zurbriggen leads with 395 points, one in front of Walchhofer and 74 ahead of Ligety.

Having won two of the three races so far, Walchhofer holds a 15-point lead over Zurbriggen in the downhill standings.

Two other Austrians who skied right after Walchhofer didn't finish.

Klaus Kroell was on pace for the podium before he fell and slid down head-first for several hundred yards, bloodying his face but apparently suffering no other injuries.

Mario Scheiber was faster than Walchhofer through the middle split, then missed a gate. Robbie Dixon of Canada also fell and reported bruises, but no serious injuries.

Most of the men have a break for New Year's, while the top 15 in the overall standings will compete in a special parallel slalom city event in Munich on Jan. 2.

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