'Full gas' Yule dethrones Noel for Kitzbuehel slalom, 'Pintu' bombs
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Kitzbühel (Austria) (AFP)
Daniel Yule held his nerve despite "full-gas tactics" Sunday to register Switzerland's first World Cup slalom win in Kitzbuehel since 1968, scuppering French rival Clement Noel's hopes of defending his title.
Yule was in second place after the first leg and went on to produce a consistent second leg to ensure a combined winning total of 1min 41.50sec down the Ganslern course in partly cloudy, relatively warm conditions.
Austrian Marco Schwarz, a two-time bronze medallist (slalom, combined) at last year's world championships in Are, Sweden, finished second at 0.12sec, with defending champion Noel, who was seeking to emulate his Wengen-Kitzbuehel double from last season after victory at the Swiss resort last weekend, in third, at 0.37sec.
"My past experiences in Madonna and Adelboden where I was leading after the first run gave me a lot of confidence coming in to today, I knew I could do it," said Yule.
"It was a really tight race, so there was really only one tactic - full gas.
"As a kid, one dreams about winning Kitzbuehel, it's one of the legendary races. Ok, maybe it's not the downhill but for us slalom skiers it's definitely one of the most important races of the season."
Unheralded Norwegian teenager Lucas Braathen, with a lowly start number of 34, had laid down the run of his life to lead the first leg.
Going into the second run, the 19-year-old Braathen, whose sixth place finish in the season opener in Soelden was to date his first top-10 finish on the circuit, had a lead of 0.33sec.
But he couldn't hold it to the line, eventually finishing fourth equal with teammate Henrik Kristoffersen, a two-time winner on the Ganslern in 2016 and 2018.
"I can't believe it, I have no words," Braathen gasped. "I missed out on a podium, but I'm so happy."
- Second-ever Swiss win -
Instead it was Yule, the 26-year-old born in Switzerland to Scottish parents, who took his World Cup slalom win tally to four with just a second-ever Swiss win in the Tyrolean resort after Dumeng Giovanoli in 1968.
The big loser of the day was France's Val d'Isere slalom victor Alexis Pinturault, who straddled a gate on the second run.
Pinturault now sits fourth in the race for the overall World Cup title, on 642 points.
Kristoffersen shot up into the lead on 741pts thanks to his fourth-place finish, sitting ahead of compatriot Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (700) and Austrian Matthias Mayer (692), the latter boosted after winning Saturday's downhill and finishing joint second with Kilde in Friday's super-G.
Pinturault admitted to being "a little bit disappointed" at not having kept up his momentum in the battle for the big crystal globe.
"Clearly, on ice I am not able to produce my best skiing," he said.
"I'm not skiing very well. On both legs I lost time on the icy part up top, there's some work to do."
But with little time before Tuesday's night slalom at Schladming, a two-hour drive further into eastern Austria, Pinturault acknowledged that changes would have to wait.
"It's the same mistake on two consecutive races," he lamented.
"I have to find solutions but on Tuesday I'll be in the same situation, it's going to be tough in Schladming."
Yule added that he was not focused on Kristoffersen in the slalom standings, in which he stands second just 17 points adrift.
"It's important not to think about it," he said. "In order to win the globe you need to win races, ski well and be consistent and the only way to do that is to take it one race after another.
"It sounds a little boring and a bit cliched but if you ski fast each and every race, then you'll have a good ranking at the end of the season."
© 2020 AFP