December 20, 2015

COURCHEVEL, France (AP) Austrian skier Eva-Maria Brem safely protected her lead from the first leg to win a World Cup giant slalom race on Sunday, picking up her second career win and denying Swiss racer Lara Gut a third straight race victory.

Gut, who overtook American Lindsey Vonn for the overall lead, finished tied for second place with Norway's Nina Loeseth, who secured a career-best result.

''I'd like to continue like this until March and not stop here,'' Gut said after her 24th career podium and first in Courchevel. ''I could have done better in the first run, the second run I was just trying not to think about the tiredness in my legs.''

It's been hectic for Vonn and Gut in the French Alps, first in Val d'Isere and then here for the GS.

Gut won Saturday's downhill, which Vonn failed to finish after skiing off course. She also won Friday's super-combined, beating Vonn by one hundredth of a second.

She got the upper hand again this time.

Vonn was 10th in the morning first run but finished 13th with sunny conditions fading on the Emile-Allais course.

''It just wasn't quite right today ... It was pretty dark second run, but normally I'm good at that,'' said Vonn, who picked up 20 World Cup points compared to Gut's 80. ''I just kept catching my edge doing weird stuff. I didn't really feel very balanced. But it was a good effort; I tried really hard and got some points.''

The 31-year-old Vonn felt tired after her near-crash on Saturday, and plans to have a rest far from the mountains before returning to action in another GS at the Austrian resort of Lienz on Dec. 28.

''After yesterday I'm just really sore and I physically need a break,'' she said. ''I'm going to take a couple of days off, see my sister in Florence and get ready for Lienz.''

Brem's other race win was also a GS in Aspen, Colorado last year.

''The first win I won because I'm a fighter and this one I won because I stayed cool,'' the 27-year-old Brem said. ''I think you need both. The first win is unbelievable but after this one I was crying.''

Brem had come close this season, finishing second in GS in the Swedish resort of Are last weekend and in Aspen, Colorado last month.

After raising both arms high into the air, she tumbled down and lay on her side for a few moments. When she got up, a grinning Gut rushed over to hug her.

''I'm very strong in the head,'' said Brem, who has 10 career podiums. ''But I just need that moment in every season when everything comes together.''

The 26-year-old Loeseth was third in slalom last weekend in the Swedish resort of Are and third in slalom in January at the Croatian resort of Zagreb.

''It's a little strange for me that this is coming in GS but I'll take it,'' Loeseth said. ''Hopefully 2016 will be even better.''

Her performance caps a great few days for Norwegian racing.

On Friday, Aksel Lund Svindal won a super-G ahead of Kjetil Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde for an ''Attacking Vikings'' podium sweep.

''It's very inspiring to see how the boys are skiing,'' Loeseth said. ''They're pushing so hard, I want to do the same.''

Loeseth could also take inspiration from Gut, who is strong in all disciplines and is shaping up as Vonn's only serious overall contender.

She has 558 points to Vonn's 500, although the American - who is chasing a fifth overall title - leads 4-3 in race wins.

Their contest promises to be a thrilling one, with the 24-year-old Gut trying to take the pressure off herself.

''It only counts in March. I'm really not going to think about it,'' she said. ''Today I could have fallen and Lindsey could have won, then she would have been in front.''

Meanwhile, Brem climbed up to fourth overall.

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