December 04, 2016

VAL D'ISERE, France (AP) Mathieu Faivre led a fierce French challenge on first-run leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria to win a giant slalom on Sunday for his first World Cup victory.

Faivre secured the fastest second run to beat Hirscher, the five-time defending World Cup overall winner and a Val d'Isere specialist, by 0.49 seconds.

France placed four racers in the top five, roared on by a noisy crowd that sang the French anthem - La Marseillaise - when an emotional Faivre stood on the top step of the podium.

Faivre had 0.01 to make up from the first leg, and the 24-year-old racer's debut victory denied Hirscher a fifth GS win on this course since 2009.

France team leader Alexis Pinturault was third, trailing 1.11 behind the winner. Teammates Thomas Fanara and Victor Muffat-Jeandet placed fourth and fifth.

Hirscher has now lost to two Frenchmen in defense of his season-long giant slalom trophy after being runner-up to Pinturault in the season-opening race at Soelden, Austria.

Faivre, a former world junior champion, has had three podium finishes in World Cup giant slalom in 2016 and Pinturault was alongside him each time.

In what has become the France team's top event, its streak of placing at least one racer in the top-3 of men's giant slalom now extends to 14 World Cup races since March 2015.

France also got its only Alpine skiing medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in men's GS, when Steve Missillier and Pinturault took silver and bronze behind Olympic champion Ted Ligety.

Ligety led a five-strong United States challenge on Sunday in 11th, 2.63 back. He had been the only racer other than Hirscher to win a Val d'Isere GS in recent years.

In his return to racing amid a dispute with Norway's ski federation, Henrik Kristoffersen was eighth, trailing by 2.38.

Kristoffersen, the World Cup slalom winner last season, skipped a slalom at Levi, Finland, last month to protest being blocked from wearing the helmet of a personal sponsor. The dispute is due in court.

Hirscher restored some Austrian pride after the team's embarrassing showing in downhill on Saturday, when the traditional Alpine power placed no one in the top 15.

He now leads the overall standings after just five races of the season. Kjetil Jansrud of Norway had been tied with Hirscher atop the overall standings but did not finish the first run Sunday after winning the downhill and super-G this weekend.

France's strong showing Sunday was fair reward for Val d'Isere stepping in to host the three-race meeting at short notice. It was cancelled at Beaver Creek, Colorado, because of a lack of snow and warm temperatures.

The men's circuit stays in Val d'Isere next weekend when the highlight of two regularly scheduled races is a giant slalom on Saturday.

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