Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 19 News List

France's Deneriaz beats Austrians in Italy downhill race

AP , VAL GARDENA, ITALY

It was looking like another Austrian sweep of the downhill podium until Antoine Deneriaz left the starting gate Saturday.

The Frenchman exited a mid-mountain restaurant where he was keeping warm before his run with only one thing on his mind.

"There was nothing to do but attack," he said.

Deneriaz did more than just attack. He blew away a host of Austrians and everyone else in the field, beating runner-up Michael Walchhofer by 0.89 seconds, an eternity in skiing.

The cow bells and air horns that had been reverberating in this picturesque alpine valley near the Austrian border were quickly silenced.

"It's for sure my biggest win so far," Deneriaz said. "Not just for the margin, but for beating the entire Austrian team."

Deneriaz covered the 3.5km-long Saslong course in 1 minute, 52.99 seconds to defend the title he won here a year ago. Walchhofer's fellow Austrian Hans Knauss was third, 0.92 seconds behind, and three more Austrians -- Fritz Strobl, Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter -- rounded out the top six.

Maier retained his lead atop the overall World Cup standings.

"He was really by far the best today," Walchhofer said of Deneriaz.

The win was the Frenchman's third on the World Cup circuit.

The gliding Val Gardena course perfectly suits his style.

"When I came back here after a bad week in Beaver Creek, [Colorado] I suddenly found all my confidence," Deneriaz said. "I've been a good glider since I first started skiing.

"I don't know why, but it's instinctive for me."

Daron Rahlves of the US tied for seventh with Klauss Kroell, another Austrian.

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