Frenchman Alexis Pinturault posted the fastest time in the first run of a World Cup giant slalom race on Saturday, while Americans Ted Ligety and Bode Miller were among several racers to ski out.
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Pinturault clocked 1 minute, 8.51 seconds, putting him 0.30 seconds clear of German Stefan Luitz and 0.41 ahead of Austrian Marcel Hirscher and Frenchman Thomas Fanara.
Ligety was aiming for his third consecutive giant slalom win of the season, but the American predicted before the race that the Stade Olympique de Bellevarde course would be tough.
Ligety took a gate too wide and went down on his hip and then off course.
"It’s always super, super bumpy and miserable to ski so I wasn’t surprised by that at all," Ligety said. "You just have to fight. Just a little bit (of) bad luck on my part today."
He had to think back more than four years to the last time he went out on a first run of a GS race– in Sestriere in February, 2009.
"It’s been a few years. But I’ve had a bunch of races where second runs I went out," Ligety said. "It’s not ideal. It’s the kind of hill where anything can really happen, because it’s such a tough and rough and bumpy hill."
Next up was Aksel Lund Svindal, but the burly Norwegian lost his balance approaching a gate from the right, missed the next gate and almost toppled over.
Miller tripped over his skis near the bottom.
Hirscher, the two-time defending World Cup champion who has two third-place finishes in giant slalom this season and won the slalom in Levi, Finland, last month, also struggled to generate his usual speed on the choppy course.
Frenchman Cyprien Richard bumped a gate with his shoulder and slid on his back with the finish line in sight, while Italian Massimiliano Blardone also failed to finish. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia did not start.
Last Sunday, Ligety edged Miller at Beaver Creek, Colorado, to win a fourth straight World Cup GS race, a streak going back to last season.