Pinturault wins GS to take World Cup lead from Kilde

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              France's Alexis Pinturault competes in an alpine ski, men's World Cup giant slalom, in Hinterstoder, Austria, Monday, March 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)
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HINTERSTODER, Austria (AP) — Alexis Pinturault won a men’s World Cup giant slalom on Monday for his second win in two days as the French skier returned to the top of the overall standings.

Pinturault added 250 points to his tally over the three-day event in the Austrian Alps to overtake Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

The Norwegian finished Monday’s race in sixth and now trails Pinturault by 26 points with six races left on the calendar.

Kilde’s Norwegian teammate Henrik Kristoffersen is third, 107 points behind Pinturault.

The intermediate lead in the overall standings could be essential with the remainder of the World Cup season in doubt because of possible travel restrictions regarding the spread of the virus in Europe.

The men’s World Cup has further stops scheduled in Norway and Slovenia ahead of the March 16-22 finals in Italy.

“I had to earn as many points as possible this weekend regarding the next races,” said Pinturault, referring to this weekend’s downhill and super-G, events which would usually suit speed specialist Kilde better.

“We will see what happens with the virus but I have done my best,” said Pinturault, who considered a rare start in the downhill on Saturday to protect his overall lead.

Pinturault finished fourth in a super-G on Saturday and dominated an Alpine combined event the following day. He won two giant slaloms on consecutive days when the World Cup last visited the Austrian resort four years ago.

“Winning four races from six starts here is very special, that is sensational,” Pinturault said.

Having carved out a lead of 0.90 seconds over Philip Zubcic in the opening run, Pinturault lost half of his advantage over his Croatian competitor as he posted only the 21st-fastest time in the final run.

Zubcic got his second podium result in 10 days after becoming the first male skier from Croatia to win a GS, in Naeba, Japan, last weekend.

Kristoffersen improved from sixth after the opening run to third, 0.72 behind Pinturault, and took the lead in the giant slalom standings, six points ahead of his French rival.

Zan Kranjec, who led the discipline standings going into the race, was third after the opening run but the Slovenian dropped to 13th for his worst result in GS this season.

“A lot can still happen,” Kristoffersen said. “There are two GS races and two slaloms left, that’s 400 points.”

Contrary to Pinturault, Kristoffersen will sit out the upcoming speed weekend in Norway.

“It’s better to take the time and prepare well and get the chance to win both races in Kranjska Gora the following week than to finish 25th in Kvitfjell,” the Norwegian said.

Monday’s race replaced a GS that was canceled in Val d’Isere, France, in December.