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Miller's World Cup lead cut to 91 points

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia -- Benjamin Raich led a 1-2 Austrian
finish Saturday in a giant slalom and drew closer to overall World
Cup leader Bode Miller, who lost a ski during the second run and
slid off the course.

Raich was followed by Hermann Maier and Kalle Palander of
Finland. Daron Rahlves of the United States was fifth.


"It's a big victory for me here," Raich said. "Bode went out,
but you never hope the opposition will go out."

Miller lost a ski while in the lead at the first split of the
final run, giving up valuable points in his bid to become the first
American to win the overall title in 22 years. His lead over Raich
has been cut to 91 points with seven races to go.

Raich covered the icy Podkoren course in a combined time of 2
minutes, 43.73 seconds. Maier, the reigning giant slalom world
champion, was 0.45 seconds behind. Palander, the first-leg leader,
was 0.79 seconds off the winning time.

Miller of Franconia, N.H., led by 0.32 seconds at the first
interval before his right leg went wide on a turn and his ski
became dislodged after slamming into a bump. He continued skiing
down several gates then stopped at the side fencing, looking at the
sky in disgust and disbelief.

"It was a really hard hit," said U.S. ski team spokesman Marc
Habermann. "It shouldn't happen, but it does happen and skis can
come off."

"Bode skied a straight line, but it was bumpy out there and he
skied right into a hole," Habermann added. "He wanted to keep
skiing but it was no use."

Conditions were close to ideal with softly sprinkling snow
causing only minor visibility problems on a mostly sun-flushed
course.

Palander was the first skier out of the hut and carved a
0.28-second lead on the first run. But the Finn lost his cushion
midway through the second run, and his shot at his first title of
the season faded.

This was Raich's first giant slalom title this season after two
top-three World Cup finishes and a silver at the world championship
this month. Raich, a technical specialist who won on this course
three years ago, took over the lead in the giant slalom standings.

Phil Mahre is the only American to have won the overall title,
doing so in three consecutive years from 1981. Miller is in front
with 1,253 points, followed by Raich at 1,162. Of the seven races
left, three are technical events. But Raich doesn't want to start
calculating.

"To think of that tactically will never work," Raich said. "I
will race to win every race I enter. It's pretty close, but Bode
has an advantage as he is very strong in the downhill and there are
more speed events to go."