Defago, Pinturault win World Cup races in Austria
KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) Didier Defago of Switzerland edged Bode Miller by 0.05 seconds to win a World Cup super-G on Sunday, and Alexis Pinturault of France won the super-combined event for his sixth career victory.
With snow falling on a shortened Streifalm course, Defago was the next racer after Miller and timed 1 minute, 10.38 seconds for his first victory since a downhill in Bormio, Italy, in December 2011.
”The course suits me,” said Defago, the 2010 Olympic champion who won the classic Hahnenkamm downhill five years ago. ”I was disappointed we had only one training run this week. I love this course. I fully used my chances today.”
Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Max Franz of Austria shared third, 0.15 off the lead.
The race also counted as the first portion of the super-combined, which added the results of the super-G and a slalom run.
Pinturault posted the fastest time in the floodlit slalom to finish in an aggregate time of 2 minutes, 2.79 seconds. Ted Ligety of the United States was 0.44 back in second, and defending overall champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria was third, 1.47 behind.
”It’s a great result,” Pinturault said. ”My confidence is building and my skiing gets better and better. That’s very positive for the Olympics.”
Miller, who led the competition after the super-G as speed specialist Defago skipped the slalom, posted the third-fastest time in slalom but was disqualified for straddling a gate.
Svindal of Norway also failed to finish the slalom, leaving Hirscher the chance to close the gap in the overall standings to 102 points. The next event is the night slalom in Schladming, where Svindal won’t compete.
Hirscher was 1.53 off the lead after the super-G but attacked his slalom throughout to make the podium.
”I couldn’t risk more than I’ve done,” said Hirscher, who failed the finish the regular slalom event Friday. ”These 60 points are now very important for me.”
Ligety was 0.94 back in 31st after the super-G, but put in an aggressive slalom run that was unmatched until Pinturault came down.
”My slalom run was ok, it was sure better than in the classic slalom race,” Ligety said. ”Alexis is a great slalom skier so it’s not too bad to be after him.”
Earlier Sunday, organizers delayed the super-G for three hours due to snowfall and lowered the start because of strong winds.
Defago missed the season following his Olympic title after tearing ligaments in his left knee. He hadn’t been on a World Cup podium since his win in Bormio.
However, getting top-10s in three downhills this season, including last week in Wengen and Saturday in Kitzbuehel, were signs of a return to form with the Sochi Olympics looming.
”It’s yet unclear if I am really going to retire,” said the 36-year-old Defago, who had earlier hinted this Olympic season might be his last. ”When I see I can still race this good then it becomes a difficult decision.”
Miller missed out on a possible win for a second straight day after mistakes he called ”heartbreaking” and ”painful” saw him come third in the downhill. He had targeted that race to earn his first World Cup win since taking the downhill in Beaver Creek in 2011.
Miller said the anger from the day before helped him in the super-G. Starting 23rd, he was clean throughout and beat the times from the season’s leading super-G racers.
”You use the emotions if you can, if you think that’s beneficial,” Miller said. ”I know that on a short course, skiing really aggressive, really angry, can be helpful because it’s so really close. When it comes down to five-hundreds … a little bit of extra aggression can make the difference. I definitely brought that in there and that’s just a usable emotion.”
Miller added that he ”skied really well. I didn’t leave a whole lot out there. Second place is also fine. Both results are fine, I am just much happier with my skiing today.”
Miller considered himself unlucky having to start right after a scheduled TV commercial interruption of the race.
”It doesn’t help to have the TV break right before you,” Miller said. ”Three minutes of nobody skiing the actual track. And the snow, it’s not very much but it’s enough to slow things down a little bit.”
American teammate Travis Ganong trailed by 0.30 in joint sixth for his career-best result in super-G.
”My skiing is in a really good spot right now,” said Ganong, a day after finishing seventh in the downhill. ”You get to the point where you’ve done so many races, you turn your brain off and you just ski and have fun. Most races I’ve done in the past, I’ve been over-thinking things. This run I just forgot about everything just relaxed and skied and had fun.”
Ganong later missed a gate in the slalom and didn’t finish the super-combined event.
This weekend’s World Cup races were the last before nations have to name their squads for the Sochi Olympics.