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Teen Braathen sets pace as battle royale looms for Kitzbuehel slalom

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Kitzbühel (Austria) (AFP)

Unheralded Norwegian teenager Lucas Braathen laid down the run of his life to lead the first leg of Sunday's World Cup slalom in Kitzbuehel from Switzerland's Daniel Yule.

Braathen, 19, whose sixth place finish in the season opener in Soelden was his first top-10 finish on the circuit, clocked 50.49 seconds down the Ganslern course with a start number of 34.

He finished 0.33sec ahead of Yule, the 26-year-old born in Switzerland to Scottish parents who has three World Cup slalom wins to his name and is searching a first Swiss win in Kitzbuehel since Dumeng Giovanoli in 1968.

Asked by television broadcaster ORF whether he had been as surprised as them by his run, Braathen replied: "Even more, to be honest!"

A battle royale is guaranteed for the second leg, scheduled for 1230 GMT, as the next 18 racers finished within 1.10sec of Braathen, meaning the slightest error will be punished.

Leading the charge for the winner's 100,000-euro pot were the Austrian duo of Michael Matt and Marco Schwarz, along with Italian Alex Vinatzer and German Anton Tremmel, the latter impressing with bib number 50.

France's Val d'Isere slalom victor Alexis Pinturault was fifth, at 0.62sec, while slalom specialists Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway and another Frenchman, defending champion Clement Noel, are in eighth and ninth, at 0.75 and 0.78sec respectively.

Noel won his fifth World Cup slalom event in Wengen last weekend, for a second successive year, and could win back-to-back slaloms for a second time, having won consecutively in Wengen and Kitzbuehel last season.

Kristoffersen, however, has form on the Ganslern, having won the slalom in 2016 and 2018.

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