Italians finish 1-2 in slalom; Miller 6th |

Italians finish 1-2 in slalom; Miller 6th

Italy's Manfred Moelgg celebrates after winning an alpine ski, men's World Cup slalom race, in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Enrico Schiavi)

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany ” Manfred Moelgg and Giorgio Rocca gave Italy a 1-2 finish in a men’s World Cup slalom on Sunday.

Bode Miller of the United States, the defending overall World Cup champion, placed sixth in his second best slalom finish of the season since being runner-up in the first race.

Moelgg, the defending World Cup slalom champion, rallied to win the last race before the World Championships start Tuesday in Val d’Isere, France.

“This is a fantastic hill for me. I love it,” Moelgg said.

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Although he clinched the slalom title in the final race last season, Moelgg’s only previous World Cup win was a slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, last year.

The two Italians trailed Reinfried Herbst after the first run but moved past the Austrian with fast second heats. Herbst, who won the Garmisch slalom race last year ahead of Moelgg, had settled for third.

Moelgg won by a hefty margin in a combined time of 1 minute, 46.77 seconds on the sunny Gudiberg slope. Rocca, who was the slalom champion in 2006, took second in 1:47.06 and Herbst finished in 1:47.37.

“I didn’t do well in Wengen and Kitzbuehel (outside top 10), so my coach and I changed a few things and now things are going better,” Moelgg said.

Ted Ligety in 16th and Jimmy Cochran in 29th were the other U.S. finishers.

Rocca dominated slalom races in 2006, but then a knee injury disrupted his career. This was his best finish since a third-place showing in November 2006.

Last month, Rocca’s young son spent 15 days in intensive care, disrupting Rocca’s training.

“I dedicate this second place to my family,” he said.

Like Rocca, Herbst also had to overcome a major knee injury after winning the silver medal in slalom at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

He had a slow start to this season but has now come back strongly in the run-up to the worlds.

“Third place is not so bad,” Herbst said. “It was a good race in difficult conditions. In the second run, my turns were not so good.”

Another Austrian, Manfred Pranger, shared fourth place with slalom standings leader Jean-Baptiste Grange of France.

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia retained the overall World Cup lead despite finishing a distant 24th as he raced with back pain. Neither of his closest challengers gained significant ground on Kostelic, who now has 742 points, followed by Grange with 707 and Benjamin Raich of Austria in third with 680 after placing 13th.

Grange is ahead in the slalom standings with 479 points. Kostelic is next with 408 points and Herbst has 376.

Downhill specialists failed to gain any points this weekend when their race Saturday was canceled because of dense fog.

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