Hirscher wins giant slalom, strengthens World Cup lead
Marcel Hirscher of Austria extended his breakout season by winning a World Cup giant slalom on Saturday to increase his lead in the overall standings.
Two days after he won the Zagreb night slalom, Hirscher finished just 0.08 seconds ahead of teammate Benjamin Raich. The veteran Raich used a blistering second run to rise from sixth and push Massimiliano Blardone of Italy into third.
Ted Ligety of the United States trailed Hirscher by 0.14 in fourth but maintained his lead in the GS standings. He holds a 380-365 point lead on Hirscher.
Bode Miller skied out in the top half of the first run, which 29 of the 66 starters failed to finish as visibility worsened on a cloudy morning after days of high wind, heavy rain and snow.
Ligety was second after the first run with 0.07 to make up on Hirscher, then was 11th fastest on the second run. He's placed in the top four in all five GS races this season in defense of his discipline title.
Tim Jitloff of the U.S. was 20th, scoring World Cup points for the third straight GS race.
The 22-year-old Hirscher seems ready to take over responsibility from 33-year-old Raich as the main hope of Austria's 'Wunderteam' to challenge for the overall World Cup title.
Hirscher led after the morning's first run and, as the last racer in the afternoon, denied Raich his first World Cup victory since December 2009 and a fourth success in the classic Adelboden GS race.
With his lead shrinking at every time check, Hirscher hung on for victory with a combined two-run time of 2 minutes, 42.50 seconds.
Hirscher's second GS win this season was his seventh career World Cup victory.
It earned him 100 World Cup points and extended his overall lead to 169 from Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who skied out in the second leg. Ligety is third, trailing Hirscher by 172.
All of Hirscher's points have come in GS and slalom races, and the former junior world champion seems a worthy heir apparent to the technically excellent Raich.
Raich turned back the clock Saturday with a smooth second leg that was 0.33 faster than anyone else as wet snow fell steadily on the course.
A partisan Swiss crowd of 29,000 cheered its approval and respect for a rival Austrian as each challenger failed to match Raich's time.
However, Hirscher ensured that the 2006 overall champion, and five-time runner-up, stayed stuck on 35 career World Cup wins to sit sixth on the all-time list.
The five above Raich — Ingemar Stenmark, Hermann Maier, Alberto Tomba, Marc Girardelli and Pirmin Zurbriggen — all won an Adelboden GS in their careers.
"For me, Benni is one of the best skiers ever," Hirscher said. "To be on the podium with him is something I cherish."
Raich, who was written off by many after seriously injuring his left knee last season, suggested he was not quite ready to hand on the baton to Hirscher.
"I still have a few years to go," he said. "Marcel is so consistent right now that, definitely, he is going to be good in the overall for years to come."