Alexis Pinturault makes statement at season-opening giant slalom

A candidate to succeed retired Marcel Hirscher as World Cup overall champion, Alexis Pinturault passed his first test with flying colours on Sunday, beating French teammate Mathieu Faivre to take the season-opening giant slalom at Soelden, Austria.

World Cup contender victorious in retired champion Marcel Hirscher's absence

Alexis Pinturault led a 1-2 finish with French teammate Mathieu Faivre in Sunday's giant slalom at the season-opening World Cup event in Soelden, Austria. Last season, Pinturault finished runner-up to the now-retired Marcel Hirscher in the overall standings. (Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Widely regarded as a main candidate to succeed retired Marcel Hirscher as World Cup overall champion, Alexis Pinturault passed his first test with flying colours on Sunday.

He beat teammate Mathieu Faivre to lead a French 1-2 finish in the World Cup season-opening giant slalom in spring-like, sunny conditions on the Rettenbach mountain glacier in Soelden, Austria.

Pinturault held a slim lead of two-hundredths of a second over Faivre after the opening run but extended the margin to 0.54 in the final leg. It was the 12th time that Pinturault led a race after the first leg, and the ninth time he held on to the advantage to win the race.

Zan Kranjec of Slovenia came 0.63 behind in third while Calgary's Erik Read was a personal-best seventh, 1.29 seconds off of Pinturault's gold-medal time, after sitting fifth following his first run.

"I had the right approach on both runs," Read told Alpine Canada. "I had a few mistakes on the second run, but this is the first time it has really felt like the podium is within reach and that my skiing is on that level."

Fellow Calgarian Trevor Philp was 26th.

Lucas Braathen of Norway posted the fastest second run to climb from 23rd to sixth, 1.10 behind Pinturault, while Swiss prospect Marco Odermat dropped from third to 13th after coming wide on a left turn halfway down his final run.

'Wonderful start'

Pinturault finished runner-up to Hirscher in the overall standings last season, making him one of the favourites to take over from the record eight-time champion from Austria as winner of the sport's biggest prize.

"It's not so easy for us that Marcel isn't there anymore," Pinturault said. "We have a lot of pressure, more than before. Usually all the pressure was on Marcel. But this is a wonderful start for me."

Pinturault also won the traditional first GS of the season in the Austrian Alps when it was last held in 2016. The race was cancelled due to bad weather in the past two years.

Sunday's win was Pinturault's 24th career victory, and 12th in giant slalom. He also won Olympic bronze in the discipline in 2018.

"This was the first event of the new season, you had to get used to racing again," said Pinturault, adding it was "cool, a super start" for the French team to place 1-2.

GS world champ Kristoffersen places 18th

The result came as a surprise for Faivre, who said before the race that his start in Soelden had been doubtful after back problems affected his pre-season training.

In sharp contrast to Pinturault, another favourite in the post-Hirscher era struggled in the opening race.

Giant slalom world champion Henrik Kristoffersen failed to find his rhythm in the opening run and finished eight-tenths behind Pinturault, before he almost skied out in the final run, losing control of his inside ski in a wide left turn. The Norwegian ended up more than two seconds off the lead in 18th.

"It was a classic mistake that cost me," Kristoffersen said. "But it's only the first race of the season."

The anticipated season-long duel between Pinturault and Kristoffersen will go into its next round at a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 24.

With files from CBC Sports


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?