Hirscher edges Raich to win World Cup slalom
VAL D’ISERE, France – Marcel Hirscher tamed the daunting Face de Bellevarde course for a second consecutive year to claim a third World Cup win Sunday, edging fellow Austrian Benjamin Raich in a challenging slalom that Bode Miller was unable to finish.
Hirscher, who trailed leader Manfred Moelgg of Italy by 0.20 seconds after the first run, clocked 53.06 seconds in the afternoon to win in a combined time of 1 minute, 44.70 seconds.
“I like Val d’Isere and Val d’Isere likes me,” said Hirscher, who posted his first World Cup victory in the French Alps when he won a giant slalom last year.
“This slope is very steep, there are a lot of rolls and you need to have a very good technique to win here. And good technique is probably my best weapon.”
Most of the competitors struggled to keep their balance on the steep course and the first run saw several high-profile casualties.
Miller, the former World Cup overall champion from the U.S., and slalom World Cup leader Jean-Baptiste Grange of France – who won the season’s first World Cup slalom last month in Levi, Finland – went out for the second consecutive day.
Miller missed a gate on the upper part, climbed up the slope for another attempt only to go out a short time later.
With the victory Hirscher climbed to third in the overall World Cup standings with 200 points. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway leads the standings ahead of Ted Ligety with 236 points, 15 more than his American rival.
“Slalom used to be my best discipline when I started, but I struggled in that event in the past years,” Hirscher said. “It makes this win even more special.”
On a bad day for the U.S. ski team, Ligety – who won Saturday’s giant slalom in impressive fashion – missed a gate in the second run and finished 36.44 seconds off the pace in 25th place.
Will Brandenburg, 12th after the first run, went out in the second and failed to score his first World Cup points.
Raich climbed up to fourth overall with 188 points and said his second place will boost his confidence.
“I’m very happy with this result given that I had back problems last week,” said the former Olympic champion. “Today the key was to push very hard and to ski with good tactics.”
Frenchman Steve Missillier, who was lagging 1.80 behind after the first run, came back impressively on his 26th birthday to finish 0.56 back in third. Missillier recorded the second run’s best time of 52.02.
“Let’s hope this first podium finish won’t be the last,” said Missillier after receiving a birthday cake in the press room. “I needed to be fast and I took all the risks because on such a difficult slope it’s impossible not to make mistakes.”
Competitors with late start numbers – including Hirscher – skied into shade on the upper part of the course and had to cope with a quickly deteriorating course. The difficult conditions proved too much for Moelgg, who dropped to ninth overall after the second run, 1.47 back.
The men’s circuit now moves to Italy with events scheduled in Alta Badia and Val Gardena next week.
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