Saturday, December 8, 2012
Frenchman Pinturault wins WCup slalom under lights
VAL D'ISERE, France -- Alexis Pinturault of France produced a brilliant second run under floodlights to improve from sixth and win a World Cup slalom race on Saturday.
He flew down the Stade Olympique de Bellevarde course to capture the second event of his career in front of home fans in Val d'Isere. The second run was pushed back to the evening and held under floodlights because of heavy snowfall at the resort.
The 21-year-old held off defending World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who led after the first run but dropped to third behind Germany's Felix Neureuther.
"It's just amazing," Pinturault said. "It's a great feeling to win in front of your home fans. I felt a bit stressed, but I managed to channel that."
World cup slalom champion Andre Myhrer improved from 12th after the first run to finish fourth. American Ted Ligety finished 12th.
"The key for Ted in slalom is that he needs to make that next step into the top seven," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said. "He's solidified himself in the top 15 and that's a good step in the right direction for him to rack up some more points in the future."
A giant slalom race is scheduled for Sunday from a reduced height because of weather conditions. Ligety will look to win his third straight giant slalom race of the season.
"The snow is inconsistent, and the light is going to be flat with such an early start," Rearick said. "It's going to be a challenge."
The first run Saturday also was delayed until early afternoon because of the snowfall.
"There was lots of snow, but the slope was great and the conditions were good, except maybe the visibility," said Pinturault, whose second run was timed at 47.33 -- the quickest of the day and nearly two seconds faster than his first effort.
"People will stop saying now that I only perform in giant slalom. Maybe people will think I can do slalom now. Seriously, though, I knew I could go fast, I knew I could it. I just had to confirm it."
In the first run, Hirscher posted the fastest time of 48.49 seconds -- ahead of countryman Manfred Pranger -- but he needed something special to surpass Pinturault. He was a bit too aggressive and almost fell twice, although his superb balance got him out of trouble both times.
"I'm very, very happy because I went as fast as I can on the second run. I took a lot of risks and made a lot of mistakes, so I'm happy with third place," Hirscher said. "Alexis has been skiing very well for one or two years now. It's impressive how fast he is. He's going to win more races for sure."
Myhrer recovered brilliantly but it was not quite enough for another podium. He won the first slalom of the season by beating Hirscher by 0.06 seconds last month at Levi, Finland.
Jens Byggmark of Sweden finished 13th after losing a pole. But, just like Myhrer, his second run was far better and he improved and pushed him to fifth ahead of Pranger, who dropped from second to sixth.