WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — Clément Noël skied through steadily falling snow to protect his first-run lead and win a World Cup slalom on Sunday.
Noël was only 17th fastest down the second gate-setting yet stayed 0.40 seconds ahead of Henrik Kristoffersen, who retook the overall World Cup standings lead.
Alexander Khoroshilov’s fast second run lifted him to finish third, 0.83 behind Noël, for the 35-year-old Russian’s best result in almost three years.
Fourth-fastest in the morning run, Alexis Pinturault straddled a gate when poised to set the fastest time and gave up top spot in the season-long overall points chase to Kristoffersen.
There will be a new overall champion this year after Marcel Hirscher, Kristoffersen’s biggest rival in recent seasons, ended his career after eight straight titles.
“I really don’t care about the points at the moment,” said the Norwegian racer, who has been runner-up in three of his past four races. “I would like to win instead of being second, but second is not bad today.”
Kristoffersen also leads the slalom discipline standings from Noël, who rose above Daniel Yule. The Swiss racer tied for fifth Sunday, 0.90 back, after back-to-back wins in World Cup slaloms.
Noël has learned to peak in January which is the busiest time in the slalom calendar.
The 22-year-old Frenchman’s fifth career World Cup win was his fourth in January, including at Wengen last year. Six of his eight World Cup podium finishes have been in January.
“It’s the most important time of the year for slalom and they are the most beautiful races of the season,” said Noël, who next races at storied Kitzbuehel, Austria. “When you are confident and in shape, anything is possible in January.”
Noël’s victory was built on taking advantage of wearing start bib No. 1 in the first run set by a France team coach. Getting first use of a smooth race surface he was two-thirds of a second faster than Kristoffersen.
Racers reported snow conditions much softer and different to the icy tracks Yule won on at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, and nearby Adelboden.
The Wengen slalom on a hill adjoining the storied Lauberhorn downhill course had been cleared of a heavy snow covering that fell through the night until Saturday morning.
More snow arrived at lunchtime Sunday, falling first on the top half of the course and then on the entire track by the time Noël started. Course workers scraped snow away from the racing line trying to keep the surface consistent.
During the first run, 2018 Olympic champion Andre Myhrer skied out and hinted in a finish-area interview it would be his last race at Wengen. The Swedish racer, who was runner-up at Wengen in 2010 and ’12, turned 37 this month.
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