Pinturault wins WCup slalom: US prospect Winters ends 19th

Sports

Luke Winters, of the United States, competes during an alpine ski, men’s World Cup slalom in Val d’ Isere, France, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)

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VAL D’ISERE, France (AP) — Alexis Pinturault won his first World Cup slalom in almost six years by a big margin Sunday, after American prospect Luke Winters could not sustain an unexpected challenge.

Pinturault extended his first-run lead to finish 1.44 seconds ahead of Olympic champion Andre Myhrer. Stefano Gross was third, a further 0.03 back.

On seeing his time in the finish area, Pinturault celebrated by throwing both of his ski poles high into the air.

“This one is pretty important,” said the 28-year-old Frenchman, who now leads the overall standings after eight races as the only man with two wins.

The race was made more dramatic by Winters, who soared wearing start bib No. 40 to be second-fastest in the opening run.

An aggressive second run saw the 22-year-old from Oregon make errors that dropped him to 19th place and out of contention for a first American podium in men’s slalom since March 2011.

“What a day! Stoked to score my first World Cup points,” Winters, who was making his eighth race start,wrote on his Instagramaccount.

Pinturault’s first slalom win since January 2014 positions him as a strong contender to follow the now-retired Marcel Hirscher’s eight-year run as overall champion.

“There is no Marcel and all the big contenders have to find their own place, and it’s not always easy,” Pinturault acknowledged.

His 25th career World Cup race win was just a third in slalom. The first was also at Val d’Isere, eight years ago.

With the 100 points earned, Pinturault leads overall by 21 from Henrik Kristoffersen, who lost his victory chance when almost skiing out in the first run. Kristoffersen had the fastest second run by more than a second to rise from 27th to fourth, 0.01 off the podium.

Pinturault benefited from two of his main rivals hitting trouble at the same icy spot near the finish of the first run. Kristoffersen recovered to cross the line 2.82 back, but Pinturault’s France teammate Clément Noël went out.

Noel won the slalom title at the 2018 junior world championships, where Winters took bronze in super-G at Davos, Switzerland.

The last American to stand on a World Cup slalom podium was Nolan Kasper, who was runner-up at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, nine seasons ago.

The men’s circuit now moves to Italy for two speed races at Val Gardena starting Friday.

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