Saturday, January 11, 2014
Neureuther wins WCup giant slalom; Ligety skis out
ADELBODEN, Switzerland -- Defending champion Ted Ligety and Bode Miller skied out of their runs on the bumpy course of the World Cup giant slalom race won by Felix Neureuther of Germany on Saturday.
Ligety, third after the first run, was poised to take the lead but skied out after hitting a bumpy patch midway down the second run.
Miller skied out during the first run, losing his balance on softening snow and 43-degree temperatures.
Neureuther overcame a big first-run deficit for his second straight 2014 victory ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Entering the second run in seventh place, he benefited from fading sunshine in the afternoon to finish 0.10 seconds ahead of first-run leader Thomas Fanara of France.
Marcel Hirscher of Austria was third, 0.19 behind Neureuther's combined time of 2 minutes, 34.60 seconds.
Ligety had little chance to recover after launching toward a gate while preparing to make a turn.
"(Felix) is one of my better friends on the World Cup tour. It's cool to see him get a win," said Ligety, who has skied out in two of three GS races since opening the season with back-to-back wins. "He's been pushing the envelope in GS for the last year and finally put together two good runs. It's not really a surprise."
For the second time in a week, Ligety found trouble the second time down though he could do little to avoid it.
"I just bounced into the gate a little bit unexpectedly, the ski ripped off and that is just part of ski racing," Ligety said. "It is definitely a kick in the groin."
Ligety dropped to third behind Hirscher in his defense of the crystal globe trophy.
Neureuther's victory was just the second for Germany in men's giant slalom in 47 years of World Cup racing, and reduced team director Wolfgang Maier to tears in the finish area.
"It's just unbelievable," said Neureuther, who matched Max Rieger's win in March 1973 at Mont Saint-Anne, Canada. "It makes me very proud."
The victory was even more surprising in an era of GS domination by Ligety, Hirscher and Alexis Pinturault of France, who placed fourth Saturday. That trio shared the last 14 World Cup victories dating to February 2012.
"To tell the truth, I never thought in my career I would win a GS," said the 29-year-old Neureuther, whose seventh World Cup success followed his slalom triumph on Monday in Bormio, Italy.
Hirscher earned 60 race points and leads Pinturault by 75 in the GS standings. Four-time winner Ligety trails by 120 with three races remaining.
"It's very positive for me about the standings," said Hirscher, adding that Ligety's bad luck was "a shocking moment."
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway placed 12th and retained his lead in the overall World Cup standings, 77 points ahead of two-time defending champion Hirscher.
A typically large and raucous crowd of 29,500 lining the Kuonisbaergli course had only one Swiss racer to cheer in the second run. Carlo Janka, the Olympic champion in giant slalom, finished 20th.
On Sunday, Neureuther and Hirscher are the favorites in the slalom event.