Chasing 3rd straight win, Pinturault leads GS after 1st run

HINTERSTODER, Austria (AP) Alexis Pinturault of France won a men's World Cup giant slalom by a huge margin on Sunday for his third straight victory in the discipline.

Overcoming a bruised leg, the Olympic bronze medalist posted the fastest time in both runs to lead second-place Marcel Hirscher of Austria by 1.14 seconds.

''It hurts but I don't think about it,'' the Frenchman said. He hurt his right thigh after hitting a gate in Friday's GS here.

''Good physio and you have to stay focused. Then it can happen,'' said Pinturault after earning his 14th career World Cup win.

Hirscher's main rival for the overall title, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, finished 1.26 back in third. The Austrian extended his lead to 283 points.

Felix Neureuther of Germany, who was second after the opening run, dropped to sixth.

The win put Pinturault within one victory of matching the best mark of four consecutive GS triumphs by a French skier, set by his illustrious countryman Jean-Claude Killy in 1967.

Pinturault also won a GS here on Friday, and triumphed in Yuzawa Naeba, Japan, two weeks ago, all with winning margins of at least a half-second.

With three races remaining this season, the Frenchman was trailing Hirscher by 131 points in the discipline standings.

With a win worth 100 points and second place 80, Pinturault didn't fancy his chances of overtaking the Austrian, saying ''obviously Marcel is very strong.''

Hirscher, who comfortably won the GS title last season, praised Pinturault for his recent dominance.

''He's impressive, you have to take your hat off,'' the Austrian said. ''It looks so great how he comes down the mountain, so smooth, while we are all fighting and struggling.''

Loudly cheered by 14,000 home fans on Sunday, Hirscher ended the three-race weekend with 220 points after also coming runner-up in Friday's GS, and placing third in a super-G the next day.

''Two times second, one time third, that's fantastic and way beyond my expectations,'' said Hirscher, who closed in on winning his fifth straight overall title.

As he doesn't compete in speed events, Kristoffersen has just five races left to close the 283-point gap to the Austrian.

The Norwegian showed signs of frustration after completing his final run and coming behind Hirscher, and ultimately also finishing behind Pinturault. He held a hand to his helmet before punching the boarding of the finish area.

''It was a battle,'' Kristoffersen said. ''Alexis is just incredible. I thought it was a really good run by me and then this Frenchman comes down.''

Kristoffersen said he was left with ''no chance'' for the big crystal globe.

''But I am not focusing on the overall title,'' he said. ''I am only looking to the next race. Marcel is just incredibly strong.''

The men's World Cup travels to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for two GS races and a slalom next weekend.

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