Italians fare well in 1st run of GS while Shiffrin struggles
SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy (AP) Taking advantage of a home course, Italian skiers Federica Brignone and Marta Bassino finished first and third in a World Cup giant slalom on Tuesday.
After leading the opening run, Brignone finished a comfortable 0.55 seconds ahead of French standout Tessa Worley - who won three GS races this season - and 0.57 ahead of Bassino.
Three-time Olympic champion Alberto Tomba attributed the Italians' success in part to Dominik Paris' victory in the classic downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, over the weekend.
''It energized the entire movement,'' Tomba said in the finish area.
Defending overall champion Lara Gut finished fourth, while current overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin came fifth.
Shiffrin maintained a 130-point lead over Gut in the overall standings, while Worley extended her lead over Shiffrin in the GS classification to 120 points.
Struggling with her equipment, Shiffrin made uncharacteristic errors on the flats early in her opening run and placed ninth. But a strong effort from Shiffrin in the second run - which was set by her coach, Mike Day - helped the American limit losses in standings.
''Second run was definitely better than the first but I had a big struggle with my grip today and it was really, really bizarre because I've never had that kind of feeling where I wasn't confident standing on my edges,'' Shiffrin said.
''We used the same setup and same tuning and everything that really works on this kind of snow and for some reason it was really, really off from the first gate,'' Shiffrin added. ''So I'm happy with fifth place.''
Lindsey Vonn did not enter the race, preferring to rest for the upcoming speed weekend in nearby Cortina d'Ampezzo.
It was the third victory of Brignone's career, to go with her silver medal in GS at the 2011 world championships.
Brignone needs one more victory to match her mother, Maria Rosa Quario, who won four World Cup slaloms between 1979 and 1983.
The Italians profited from two days of training on the technical Erta - which translates as ''steep'' - slope at the Kronplatz resort, which was making its circuit debut.
In all, five Italians finished in the top 15, with Irene Curtoni eighth, Sofia Goggia 11th and Manuela Moelgg - who is from San Vigilio and could see her home from the slope - 14th.
With the temperature minus-14 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) at the start of the first run and sunny skies, conditions were solid. The second run was more complicated with the toughest part of the course in the shade by then.
Brignone claimed her only other GS victory in Soelden, Austria, at the start of last season but had struggled in the discipline this season, with her best previous finish eighth.
Having modeled her skiing after Ted Ligety, Brignone showed off her fluid form by touching the snow with her gloves on most of the turns.
Brignone trailed Worley at one point in both runs but made up time on the steepest part of the course in each leg.
Looking incredulous as she saw the final result, Brignone jumped up and down in her ski boots and embraced Bassino as a huge Italian tricolor flag was unfurled in the stands.
''Lately I've focused my training on giant slalom. I wanted to get back in form in this discipline,'' Brignone said after the first run. ''Today I was able to handle the turns like I wanted to. It's a new course and having trained here helped a lot, getting to know the gradients and the bumps.''
The last Italian woman to win a giant slalom on home snow was Karen Putzer in Cortina in 2007 - in a race where teammate Denise Karbon finished third.
With her 19th career podium in GS, Worley matched Carole Merle for the French women's record.
Bassino was the first starter and was able to take advantage of a clean course in the opening run. She finished third in Soelden this season for her first career podium.