ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Marcel Hirscher returned to winning ways Sunday, triumphing in the first men’s World Cup slalom of 2019 after he had missed the podium in the last two races.
The seven-time overall champion trailed Austrian teammate Marco Schwarz after the opening leg but posted the fastest time in the final run before Schwarz straddled a gate and failed to finish.
“It was today definitely not the easiest victory I have made so far,” said Hirscher, who has won 10 of the last 12 slaloms. “But in the end of the day I am super, super happy. It was quite a hard day of work.”
Alexis Pinturault of France was 0.60 seconds behind in second, and Manuel Feller of Austria was another 0.02 further behind in third.
Hirscher’s main rival in the slalom World Cup, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, finished in fifth place.
It was Hirscher’s 64th career win and 30th in the discipline. Only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark (40) and Italy’s Alberto Tomba (35) have won more slalom races.
It was also the Austrian’s fifth victory on the outskirts of the Croatian capital. No other skier has won more slaloms at a single resort. Only Stenmark (in both Madonna di Campiglio and Kitzbuehel) and Tomba (in Sestriere) have also recorded five wins at one venue.
Hirscher rarely misses out on a podium in consecutive races. The last time he didn’t make the podium in three straight races was in February 2016.
After placing 26th in the last slalom of 2018 and starting the new calendar year by placing seventh in the city event in Oslo, he spoke of “a mini-crisis.”
And the Austrian was fast to acknowledge that Sunday’s win had “not really” ended his doubts.
“The feeling is a little bit weird with the changing conditions we have this year,” Hirscher said. “It is hard to find the right set-up for each terrain and for every condition.”
Watched by 10,000 spectators along the icy Crveni Spust course, Hirscher started the race with a solid run but still trailed Schwarz, who led an Austrian sweep of the top three in the opening run.
Five days after winning his first World Cup at the city event in Oslo, Schwarz was 0.37 faster than Hirscher, while Feller was 0.42 behind in third.
On a course set by his coach Helmut Grassl, Olympic champion Andre Myhrer of Sweden finished 2.71 seconds off the lead and failed to qualify for the second run.
The men’s World Cup continues with another slalom and a GS in Adelboden, Switzerland, next weekend.
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