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Alexis Pinturault wins GS again to increase pressure on Hirscher

France’s Alexis Pinturault celebrates in the finish area after winning an alpine ski, men’s World Cup giant slalom, in Val d’Isere, France, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Giovanni Auletta / Associated Press)
France’s Alexis Pinturault celebrates in the finish area after winning an alpine ski, men’s World Cup giant slalom, in Val d’Isere, France, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Giovanni Auletta / Associated Press)
Associated Press

VAL D’ISERE, France – A hand injury could not stop Frenchman Alexis Pinturault conquering the icy Face de Bellevarde course on Saturday as he won another World Cup giant slalom race to ramp up the pressure on rival Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

The 25-year-old Pinturault earned his 17th career World Cup win and eighth win in GS, beating the French GS record set by Jean-Claude Killy. It was his second win of the season – both in GS – having also beaten Hirscher in the season-opening race at Soelden, Austria.

Despite severely bruising his right hand in a training fall on Thursday, Pinturault finished .33 ahead of Hirscher – who is the five-time defending overall World Cup winner – and 1.5 seconds clear of Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen, who climbed up from 14th place after the first run.

“Even this morning it was extremely difficult for me to hold the pole,” Pinturault said. “But I gritted my teeth and I practically didn’t feel it over the two runs.”

Over in the Italian resort of Sestriere, Tessa Worley won her second straight giant slalom to cap a good day for French skiing.

Pinturault made his intentions clear in the morning’s first run, shooting down the treacherous slope to place .65 ahead of Germany’s Stefan Luitz and .67 clear of Hirscher.

“It’s always special to see the crowd at the bottom, but you have to block it out,” said Pinturault, who added that the shadows on the course made it even more difficult to trace a path.

Luitz, meanwhile, dropped down to end the race in fifth spot behind Germany’s Felix Neureuther.

Having finished runner-up to Hirscher in the GS standings for the past two years, Pinturault is throwing down a serious challenge.

However, he remains modest.

“I think you have to win the globe (overall title) to be the boss,” Pinturault said. “I’ve never won it.”

The French men are leading the way this season in GS.

Last weekend, also in Val d’Isere but on a different course, Mathieu Faivre won and four of the top five were French – with Pinturault third behind Hirscher.

But this time Faivre was the only other Frenchman in the top 10, placing ninth.

“It wasn’t great,” Faivre said after the first run. “It was melting near the bottom and I couldn’t feel my skis at all.”

Victor Muffat-Jeandet, fifth last weekend, went inside on his ski on the second run, flipped up and flew into the safety netting. He sat up quickly and appeared unhurt as officials helped to untangle his skis.

American Ted Ligety, out of the top 20 after the first run, failed to complete the race after going wide on a gate halfway down his second run. Ligety, an Olympic and world giant slalom champion, returned to action this season nine months after tearing the ACL in his right knee in a training accident. Countryman Tommy Ford, who was 17th in the morning, crashed out of the second run.

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