Defending champ Marcel Hirscher wins in France

Defending champ Marcel Hirscher wins in France

VAL D’ISERE, France - The Associated Press
Defending World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria protected his first-run lead to comfortably win a giant slalom race on Sunday and silence his critics, although he was largely helped by Frenchman Alexis Pinturault’s clumsy mistake three gates from the end.

Hirscher, who was third in Saturday’s slalom, secured his first win of the season, his third consecutive podium spot and fifth so far.

“I heard a lot of questions recently, like ’What’s going on, you’re only second?’” Hirscher said. “Whoa, I thought second was OK. But now I guess those questions are over. “

He finished 1.16 seconds ahead of Germany’s Stefan Luitz, with American Ted Ligety climbing up from sixth to finish 1.42 behind in third place on the Stade Olympique de Bellevarde course.

“I think this is what the people want to see: good weather, good conditions, good skiing,” the 23-year-old Hirscher said. “It’s perfect to win a race, a first victory this season.”

The 20-year-old Luitz had by far the best time of the afternoon to climb from 25th after his first run and secure the first podium of his career.

“It’s hard to believe. But I had the perfect start conditions early on with the (better) light and visibility,” Luitz, who is in the German army, said through a translator. “I knew there was a chance to do something. I think it will take all night for this to really sink in.”