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"The one thing he would like," says his mother, Jo, "is more space to himself." While Miller might be off the radar of the average NFL fan, he is Peyton Manning-famous on the World Cup circuit and anywhere near a ski hill. Consider Beaver Creek. On Wednesday, the day before his first race, Miller spent two hours signing autographs with Rahlves at an Atomic function, then three hours that night at a meet-and-greet with media members arranged by the pasta company Barilla, another of his sponsors. At one point he stirred sauce for a photo-op (insert chimp noises here). He also drank a beer, which shocked the European journalists in attendance. "Sometimes, when the stress gets to be too much, it helps to blow things out, just get smashed," says Miller. "But the other night I had one beer and I was in bed at 10:30."
Miller's decision to attack history on newer, faster skis involved cutting a deal with himself. "I'm not much of a believer in an afterlife, and I don't think I'm getting reincarnated," he says, "so what it comes down to is, I owe it to myself and to a lot of other people--my coaches, my family, my teammates--to take the athletic side of it as far as I can and learn to just manage the bulls---."
Miller is taking the athletic side to places never visited by any other skier. He has always had extraordinary edge control and carving skills. "Now he's taking [tighter] lines in downhill than any skier has ever attempted," says Fleischer.
"No surprise this year," says Maier, the four-time overall champion whose runner-up finish in last Saturday's giant slalom suggests that he will remain a viable contender for that title. "He's done a good job when he was struggling with equipment. Now it looks easy for him."
U.S. coaches say they saw a change while helping Miller fine-tune his speed style during summer downhill training in Portillo, Chile. But Miller says he hasn't changed a thing except his equipment, and he's "just getting better at the same stuff I've always done."
"Let's say this: He's relaxed now, he's in a better tuck," says U.S. coach Phil McNichol. "His transition out of turns is better. I'd say the change in equipment supported the changes the coaching staff has been trying to get him to make. Bode will debate that."
He'll also continue to challenge the U.S. coaches on how frequently he races. They want him to rest more; he wants to set his own schedule, which is usually exhausting. His crashes at Beaver Creek suggest that he might find it difficult to maintain his technical edge while trying to win speed events. "Maybe I'll train a little more in slalom and GS," he says. Media and public scrutiny will intensify in Europe, and Miller will try to escape it again by living--as he did last year--in a 30-foot motor home piloted by his childhood friend Jake Serino. (Two other longtime friends, Cam Shaw-Doran and Miller's cousin Chance Stith, share his New Hampshire house. Miller is single, with no girlfriend. "Every girl I meet who's good-looking or cute reads PEOPLE magazine like it's going out of style and is totally absorbed in celebrities," says Miller.)
He expects great things from the season. "I will probably win the overall," he says, "and probably win other globes [event trophies] too--if I don't get hurt. Every day I go out there I probably should be considered the favorite. There's no limit, really." He will ski at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and then retire. "Unless some young kids come along," he says, "to help shoulder the bulls---."
Until then he will look for more than trophies and cash. Last Friday, as he hit the downhill finish corral and threw a huge spray of fine snow into the blue sky, he windmilled his arms long before he saw that he had moved into first place. "I felt phenomenal, regardless of the time," he explained later. It was "a celebration of great skiing."