Pinturault takes impressive GS win in first post-Hirscher race
Alexis Pinturault led home a hugely impressive French one-two in the Giant Slalom in Soelden on Sunday, the first race of the post-Marcel Hirscher era.
Pinturault was heavily tipped to step up following Hirscher’s decision to retire during the off-season and he more than lived up to the billing in Austria.
Pinturault led the way after the opening run, 0.02s ahead of compatriot Mathieu Faivre, and it was the same man he had to beat in the second run.
There was pressure on Pinturault, not only following Hirscher’s retirement but because he was the last skier to win here in 2016 following two cancellations due to poor weather.
On top of that the sun was shifting during the second run which dramatically changed the lighting conditions on the course.
Pinturault showed no sign of nerves as he flew down the course and finished with a time of 1:07.04 and 2:14.14 overall.
“It was really fantastic,” Pinturault said after the race.
"I made two solid runs and it was obviously really hard on the second run we couldn’t see anything on the piste but thanks to all of you because that was great support.
" Last time was 2016 so three years ago and it was really special to start like this."
Faivre took his first podium since December last year whilst Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec rounded off the top three.
The big disappointment of the day was undoubtedly Henrik Kristoffersen, who was another rider tipped to dominate following Hirscher.
The Norwegian was first out the gate but struggled a bit to get to grips with the course and was even worse in his second run.
Manuel Feller and Marco Odermatt also struggled but the former can hardly be blamed given his wife is currently in hospital ahead of the birth of their child, with a helicopter waiting on standby for him at the venue.
By contrast it was a great day for the American team as well as Tommy Ford and the legendary Ted Ligety finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Meanwhile 19-year-old Lucas Braathen was the star of the second run with a time of 1:06.44 and he took the sixth.