By GRAHAM DUNBAR, Associated Press
CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — Didier Cuche gave his Swiss fans a farewell victory in a World Cup super-G race Friday, while Bode Miller missed the race because of a knee injury.
Racing his final World Cup season before retiring, the 37-year-old Cuche found speed on the bottom half of a sunbathed course to edge early starter Jan Hudec of Canada.
Cuche won in 1 minute, 33.11 seconds, 0.16 seconds ahead of Hudec, after trailing by half a second on the top section. Benjamin Raich of Austria was third.
Miller skipped the race to rest his knee. The U.S. team said Miller underwent a "very minor scope" of his left knee this week.
Cuche got his 21st career World Cup win and sixth in super-G. At the 1998 Nagano Games, he won an Olympic silver medal in the discipline behind Hermann Maier.
Voted Switzerland's favorite personality of 2011, Cuche said he felt pressure to perform after training at Crans-Montana last week.
"Everyone was telling me, 'You have to win.' I'm so happy that I was able to deliver at the first race," he said. "It lifts the pressure."
Cuche appeared elated on crossing the line to find he was fastest on the softening snow, then delighted the crowd with his trademark trick of flicking his right ski end over end before catching and kissing it.
"My serviceman did a great job because the conditions were so different from the rest of the season," said Cuche, praising American technician Chris Krause for preparing his skis.
Temperatures rose above 50 degrees on the south-facing Nationale course when Cuche started, wearing bib No. 20. Hudec wore No. 6, while Raich, another veteran, raced immediately after Cuche.
"Experience played a big role," said Cuche, who will be favored for another super-G race on Saturday.
Hudec acknowledged he skied cautiously on the bottom half and "left the door open" to Cuche.
"Didier skied it very, very, very well," Hudec said. "I'm going to watch video of that tonight."
With 100 race points, Cuche rose to second in the season-long super-G standings. He's 38 behind Aksel Lund Svindal, the Olympic super-G champion from Norway who placed ninth.
Marcel Hirscher retained the overall lead in the standings after Swiss speed specialist Beat Feuz had a disappointing run.
Hirscher started a super-G for the first time in more than two years, but finished outside the top 30 points-scoring places.
Hirscher is 41 points ahead of Feuz, who placed 20th. Defending champion Ivica Kostelic is second in the standings, 12 points behind Hirscher, but is sidelined because of knee surgery.