December 06, 2015

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) Marcel Hirscher took up fly fishing during his stay in Colorado. It was great and all, but he naturally landed his most prized catches on the snow - reeling in super-G and giant slalom wins in what was a bountiful weekend.

''Beaver Creek is over the years pretty good to me,'' Hirscher said.

Nothing fishy about that proclamation.

The Austrian standout held on to his first-run lead to easily win a World Cup GS race Sunday on a day when American Ted Ligety and some other top rivals crashed.

Fresh off his surprise super-G victory 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,'' Hirscher said. ''It's great to be on top of those.''

Hirscher turned in a smooth, clean final 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 said about Hirscher. ''I need more podiums.''

While in town, Hirscher went fly fishing at a nearby stream. But this isn't exactly the sport the 26-year-old wants to be associated with. Not now, anyway.

No, he much prefers to be asked about his car racing, dirt bike riding or bungee jumping.

''Younger stuff,'' he said, laughing. ''But it was definitely fun. Our president of the Austria ski federation, he's totally crazy about fly fishing. ... He took me with him and now I'm getting a bit used to it.''

This should come as no surprise: A Norwegian was on the podium at Birds of Prey. This time, it was Kristoffersen, who's trying to keep up with his more experienced teammates Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud.

''It's a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it,'' Kristoffersen said. ''I don't get that much advice on the hill, they ski mostly speed. Outside the hill, when it comes to other stuff, I get advice.''

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.

Svindal, who won Friday's downhill race, didn't compete because of an illness. The top American finisher was Tim Jitloff at 14th.

Hirscher didn't pay any attention to his competition, just the clock. He didn't change his strategy when Ligety went out early in the even or after Germany's Stefan Luitz - second-to-last to go - made a huge mistake to give Hirscher an even bigger cushion.

''I'm always skiing against the time, not against Ted or ... who else,'' Hirscher said. ''I'm always searching for the perfect turns.

''I'm happy with my skiing so far.''

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