Miller makes mark but questions remain

By Simon Evans

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - Bode Miller produced his best result since returning to the U.S. team when he finished fourth in the World Cup downhill race on Saturday but his rival Aksel Lund Svindal said he expects the American to remain inconsistent for some time.

Miller only decided in September he was going to compete this season and returned to the official U.S. team after two seasons on his own, which meant a late start to his training.

In Lake Louise last week he finished 29th in downhill and 39th in Super-G while in Friday's super combined in the Vail valley resort he crashed out in the slalom.

Two errors cost Miller the tenths of seconds that were the difference between fourth and top spot on Saturday, but the 32-year-old was confident his first win of the season was close.

"Mistakes are acceptable when you are pushing as much as I was doing today," Miller told reporters. "I was taking a really aggressive line and not backing off.

"If you want to win on a course like this then that is what you have to do.

"The fitness level is going to be an issue for a little while yet, it is hard to train a lot and get the fitness moving forward while you are racing a lot but the fitness will come.

"I just started a lot later than I ever have done before.

"The skiing has been there. When the conditions are fairly even like they were today then there is no question that I have the ability to win races.

"Little mistakes have been the issue for me and if I had had a clean run then I think I would have been on top of the podium."

While Svindal, the overall World Cup champion, agreed Miller has the ability to produce in the speed events, the Norwegian said his late start to training would have an impact on his consistency in the technical events.

"I think sports are fair like that, if you work hard at sports you will get good, it brings results," said Svindal.

"If he didn't work out in the summer, I mean didn't ski a real lot, he will have fast races for sure because he is a fast skier but it is going to be more up and down for him because he has had some really good runs and some slow runs."

"I haven't seen him do slalom and giant slalom but I am guessing he will do well in downhill and Super-G and less well the technical events."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)