Jean-Baptiste Grange wins night slalom
SCHLADMING, Austria – Jean-Baptiste Grange of France won a World Cup night slalom Tuesday, giving him his second victory in three days and a big boost leading to next month’s world championships.
Grange, who also captured Sunday’s slalom in Kitzbuehel, won by 0.04 seconds and was followed by two Swedes – Andre Myhrer and Mattias Hargin
Bode Miller was a late withdrawal. The U.S. team said he plans to miss this weekend’s downhill and super-combined in Chamonix, France to rest for next month’s worlds.
The top American was Nolan Kasper, who finished 13th after the second-fastest time in the final run. Teammates Ted Ligety and David Chodounsky were 19th and 22nd.
By capturing the two last slaloms before the worlds on Feb. 8-12 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Grange has clearly become someone to watch.
“Garmisch is really steep, that’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s all amazing, as 10 days ago, it didn’t look good with the pain in my shoulder. (Winning) two races in a row is perfect for me. I worked hard for it.”
He finished in 1 minute, 46.54 seconds for his ninth career victory. Myhrer had the fastest time in the opening run. Hargin was 0.60 back in third.
Grange injured his shoulder in a crash last month but returned to the circuit sooner than expected and wrapped up a double victory.
“This is one of the best wins of my career,” he said. “I have always been impressed by the atmosphere and it was my dream to win here someday.”
This night race draws crowds of up to 50,000 every year. Organizers interrupted the final run before the top four racers were to start, with fireworks from the crowds causing poor visibility.
This was the first time since 2002 an Austrian failed to make the podium, with former overall champion Benjamin Raich placing ninth for his team’s best result.
Myhrer started the final run with an 0.85 second advantage. But he was already behind the Frenchman at the second intermediate time.
“Small details decide about winning or losing in slalom,” Grange said. “Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not, but it all went well for me twice in a row.”
Ivica Kostelic was fifth and extended his lead in the overall standings. The Croat has 1,075 points, followed by Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen on 643 and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal on 585.
Kostelic also tops the slalom standings with 478 points. Grange is now second with 382, Myhrer third with 333.
Grange ended a four-year winning streak of the Austrian team on the Planai course. He became only the fourth skier from outside Austria to win in the 15-year history of the night race.
World Cup slalom champion Reinfried Herbst of Austria, who won the race in 2009 and ’10, was 1.12 behind after the opening run before skiing out in the second.