March 04, 2016

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) Alexis Pinturault won his fourth straight World Cup giant slalom on Friday, intensifying the battle with defending champion Marcel Hirscher for the season's discipline title.

The Frenchman closed the gap on Hirscher in the GS standings to 91 points, with two races remaining and a win worth 100 points.

Another GS is scheduled for Saturday, followed by the season-ending race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in two weeks.

''I feel great. It's a special moment for me,'' said Pinturault, who is chasing his first GS globe. ''It was a difficult race but it's a happy end for me.''

The Frenchman built on his first-run lead to beat Philipp Schoerghofer and Hirscher by 0.47 and 0.69 seconds, respectively. The rest of the field finished more than a second off the pace. It was Schoerghofer's first World Cup podium since December 2011.

Felix Neureuther of Germany, who was third after the opening leg, was thrown off the course in his final run and didn't finish.

Pinturault matched the best mark of four consecutive GS triumphs by a French skier, set by Jean-Claude Killy in 1967. Only Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark had a longer unbeaten run in GS, winning 14 times in a row in 1978-1980.

Pinturault also triumphed in Yuzawa Naeba three weeks ago, and twice in Hinterstoder last weekend, all with winning margins of at least a half second.

The Frenchman's recent dominance in the discipline prompted Hirscher to say Pinturault would deserve the title.

''If Alexis keeps going on like this, he deserves that globe,'' said the Austrian, who looked like a runaway winner after three straight victories early in the season. ''I won races in the beginning of the season but never in the same style as Alexis.''

In the overall standings, Hirscher further increased his lead over Henrik Kristoffersen to 293 points.

The Norwegian, who finished 1.12 behind in fourth, only competes in GS and slalom and has four races left to overtake the four-time overall champion.

''Regarding the points at stake, this was an important finish,'' said Hirscher, who was only seventh after the opening leg before posting the fastest second-run time.

Kristoffersen is third in the GS standings but trails Hirscher by an insurmountable deficit of 220 points.

Organizers lowered the start after the top section of the Podkoren course was affected by overnight snowfall. With rain and mild temperatures forecast, conditions were expected to be different for Saturday's race.

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