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Hirscher cruises to World Cup giant slalom win

Pat Graham Associated Press

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Austrian Marcel Hirscher held on to his first-run lead to easily win a World Cup giant slalom Sunday on a day when American Ted Ligety and some other top rivals crashed.

Fresh off his surprise super-G win the day before, Hirscher made it through the extra grippy snow conditions in a combined time of 2 minutes, 32.58 seconds. He beat Victor Muffat-Jeandet of France by 0.98 seconds. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen was third.

It was Hirscher’s 15th giant slalom victory. With that, he became Austria’s career GS victory leader, surpassing Hermann Maier and Benjamin Raich.

“We are getting closer to these records that I think are pretty heavy,” said Hirscher, who spent some time fly fishing in Colorado when he wasn’t racing. “It’s great to be on top of those.”

Hirscher turned in a smooth, clean run and pumped his ski poles after finishing.

Once again, Hirscher had no trouble finding the fastest way down the course. He’s attempting to win a fifth straight overall title this season.

“He’s in first class (compared) to me,” Muffat-Jeandet chuckled. “I need more podiums.”

Done early in this race was Ligety, along with French racers Thomas Fanara and Alexis Pinturault. All three crashed out – right in a row, too.

It was Ligety’s first “DNF” – did not finish – in a first run of a World Cup GS since 2013. He was the big favorite on this course, considering he has won five races at Birds of Prey along with a world title last February.

But he struggled in snow conditions that drastically changed when the temperature significantly dropped overnight – turning the course from icy to super aggressive. Ligety hooked an edge, tumbled to the snow and crashed through a gate before stopping.

His day was done.

“It’s not cool in any kind of race when you go out,” said Ligety, who won the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, nearly two months ago. “But this one is especially a bummer, for sure.”

Ligety had to wait several minutes in the start gate before his run as course workers fixed the netting after a crash by Fanara. Ligety insisted the delay was no big deal.

“It always happens,” said Ligety, who complained of a “dead leg” after hitting the gate.

Pinturault also wiped out and was taken to the hospital for evaluation after hitting his head.

Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who won Friday’s downhill race, didn’t compete because of an illness. The top American finisher was Tim Jitloff. He was 14th, 2.28 seconds behind Hirscher.

Asked if he was surprised at how many big names were crashing so early in the race, Fanara simply shrugged.

“When you push, you have a chance to go out,” said Fanara, who was second in Soelden. “To win, you have to accept to lose.”

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