Bode Miller believes he still has what it takes to win the overall World Cup title, even though he just started skiing again after a seven-month layoff.
"I think I always have a chance. I'm one of the few guys who skis all the events pretty well and I think that automatically gives me a chance," Miller said Thursday at an event for his ski company leading to the start of the World Cup season.
Miller, the overall champ in 2005 and 2008, rejoined the U.S. team a month ago after competing independently the past two years. He will skip this weekend's opening race on the Rettenbach glacier and plans to begin Nov. 15 in Levi, Finland.
"The skiing is not going to be an issue so much as the fitness," he said. "In the past my fitness has been one of my biggest strengths, and the fact that I can ski four events and not get sick and not get injured is what allowed me to win the overall the other years that I won it."
"It's going to be a bit of a test to see how quickly I can get into the form I need to be in to be competitive," he added. "But things don't start to get into a full swing until December, and I think by December I should be fit."
Miller cut last season short when he failed to win a medal at the world championships in February. It was the third straight major championship in which the New Hampshire resident failed to make the podium. He won two silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games but finished without a medal at the 2006 Turin Games, where he made more headlines for his late-night partying than his skiing.
Miller also injured his ankle early last season and failed to win a race for the first time in nearly 10 years. But he said his layoff could result in peak form for the Vancouver Olympics in February.
"It's going to be interesting this year because I pushed my training so late," he said. "I didn't start doing anything until a month ago, so that automatically puts me much later on in the season, so hopefully I can peak later and maintain that peak longer."
Miller finished seventh in a giant slalom on the Vancouver course in 2008 and didn't finish a super-G. While he acknowledged those performances weren't stellar, Miller noted that the Whistler course has been drastically altered since.
"I don't think anyone really knows what it's going to be like," he said. "But I'm one of the racers who feels pretty comfortable on any different track. I've won on the long, flatter tracks _ Lake Louise and Beaver Creek _ and some of the more technical tracks, so I think it's just going to be a matter of getting all the pieces to come together."
Over the summer, Miller considered retiring and spent time with his daughter. He told his personal coaching staff to look for work, a decision he called liberating.
"I just wanted to make sure I wasn't being pushed along by a freight train of momentum," he said.
"When you have a bunch of employees and you have sponsors and you have all these things, they push you along anyway, so it no longer becomes your own decision. You're just doing it because it's the natural progression of things," he added. "I needed to make sure that my goals were clear and that my motivation was clear and that was the way to do it."
Now, having turned 32 this month, Miller has thrown himself into an intense training program with the U.S. team. He has been working out at high altitude in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, the past couple weeks with a plan to race every event once he does return.
"He's always gung-ho for everything. The guy loves ski racing and he's a competitor and he wants to go," U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said.
Still, Miller realized he's not ready just yet.
"The speed is fine. I've been back on snow long enough to have great speed for 30 seconds, but a World Cup race is different than just 30 seconds," he said. "The preparation has been going great and the one thing that could really set me back would be an injury."
One of the main reasons Miller left the squad was because he was not allowed to sleep in his personal motor home the night before races. Miller says he has free reign now and faced no opposition when he met with team officials last month to ask back in.
"That's what the impetus for coming back was," he said.
Meanwhile, a summer off gave Miller the time to think about life after skiing. He says he wants to open a vineyard and produce wine in New Hampshire.
"It takes a long time to grow the grapes, but that's a goal I have for the future," he said. "I grow a lot of vegetables and stuff on my farm anyway, and I think it will be interesting to do wine, just because no one has ever done it there before."