ALTA BADIA, Italy (AP) — Two-time defending overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher led the opening run of a giant slalom on the Gran Risa course Sunday, while favorite Ted Ligety stood third after making a couple mistakes.
Aiming for his second consecutive GS win after a victory in Val d'Isere, France, last weekend, Hirscher clocked 1 minute, 18.14 seconds for a 0.22 advantage over French rival Alexis Pinturault.
Ligety, who won by a massive margin last year, was 0.41 back.
Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal stood ninth.
U.S. skier Tim Jitloff was 11th and Bode Miller failed to qualify for the second run in 40th after falling on his hip midway down. Miller recovered but stood up out of a tuck before he concludes a wild run.
Conditions were ideal, with the temperature right at the freezing mark, although the course was not as icy and treacherous as usual.
Considered one of the circuit's top giant slaloms, the Gran Risa begins with a steep and twisty section through the trees then flattens out with a series of rolls before the finish, meaning it's tough to make up time if any mistakes are made in the first half of the course.
"It was just so easy and grippy that I definitely didn't have quite the right approach and just was thinking it was going to be slicker than it was," said Ligety, who shook his head in disappointment when he crossed the line. "I had a couple of those little mistakes and you pay hard on this type of snow.
"Typically it's really icy here," Ligety added. "But you know, that's a learning experience for next run."
Last year, Ligety won the opening run by a staggering 2.4 seconds.
"I don't try to compare one year to another," Ligety said. "That's not really a good way to assess and approach a race. ... I just have to approach it as it is on that day."
Miller ruined his race skis in a crash in Val d'Isere last weekend and with his wife, Morgan, and son accompanying him in Europe, he didn't find the time this week to test new ones.
"I was just telling Morgan, it's not her fault or Nate's fault but I don't spend nearly the time thinking about skiing that I did in the past," said Miller, whose best result this season was second behind Ligety in a GS in Colorado earlier this month. "And I keep making really stupid mistakes."
After Christmas, the circuit resumes with a downhill in Bormio next weekend. Although several top racers — including Ligety and Miller — will compete Monday in the Alpine Rockfest, an exhibition event at the Paganella resort in Andalo.
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