ALTA BADIA: Olympic champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria set a blistering pace to snatch a sixth consecutive victory in the men’s World Cup giant slalom at Alta Badia on Sunday by a 2.5-second margin on his nearest rival.
The seven-time defending overall World Cup champion laid the groundwork for victory in a dominant first run in the Dolomites of northern Italy.
Hirscher was impressive from the start gate to the finish down the challenging Gran Risa course clocking 1min 17.61sec, nearly one second ahead of his rivals.
The 29-year-old did even better in the second with 1:14.68 for a combined time of 2min 32.29sec with France’s Thomas Fanara, jumping up from 12th after the first run to finish second at 2.53sec.
It was the 37-year-old French veteran’s first podium since March 2016 after being sidelined with a knee injury last year, and 12th of his career.
“It was definitely on the limit,” said Hirscher, who reclaims top spot in the overall World Cup standings ahead of compatriot Max Franz.
“I was very close to not getting to the finish line. It was on the edge.
“Winning six in a row here is something special. The second run was tough with a lot of holes. I told myself that the only thing to do was to ski at 100 percent.
“But having such a margin was a big surprise for me.”
– Injury woes –
France’s Alexis Pinturault proved consistent, clocking the seventh fastest time in both runs, to finish 2.69 behind the winner for his first podium of the season.
“It’s really an enormous moment for me,” said Fanara, who is competing in his final season and was third quickest on the second run.
“It’s been a little over two years without a podium and to achieve one here on the Gran Risa gives me great joy.
“It’s my final Gran Risa and at the starting line I didn’t ask myself any questions.
“My family, my little boy and my wife were at the finish area and that gave me great motivation to give 100 percent.”
Despite Hirscher’s massive victory margin, his second run was only the second fastest on the day.
Hirscher hailed Fanara’s performance, saying: “It’s great to see Thomas on the podium again. He’s been skiing at top level for over ten years, he has had serious injuries but he has always returned.”
Italy’s Luca de Aliprandini, who finished a distant 28th place in the first run, had the run of his life in the second, topping Hirscher’s time by 0.24 seconds, allowing him to climb to seventh in the final standings.
Hirscher’s great Norwegian rival Henrik Kristoffersen, fifth fastest on the opening run, made two big mistakes on his second run and could only finish 14th overall at 3.65sec.
It was Hirscher’s 61st World Cup victory and third this season after the slalom in Levi, Finland and giant slalom in Val d’Isere, France.
Sweden’s Matts Olsson and Swiss Marco Odermatt, who had been second and third after the first run could not match the pace in the second.
Odermatt took a tumble and failed to finish the race as Olsson finished overall sixth.
Hirscher has a chance for another win in Monday’s parallel giant slalom, where his best finish was third last season.
In Val Gardena, the rescheduled women’s World Cup downhill and Super G will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday after being cancelled in Val d’Isere because of lack of snow.