Pinturault wins combined to keep globe-seeking Norwegians on edge

Hinterstoder (Austria) (AFP) –


France's Alexis Pinturault ensured the race for the overall World Cup title will go down to the wire by winning Sunday's alpine combined in Hinterstoder.

The victory in the event comprising a super-G and slalom -- a discipline in which he is reigning world champion -- was Pinturault's 28th on the World Cup circuit and 10th in the combined. It also sealed a fourth globe in the discipline.

Sitting second after the super-G won by Switzerland's Mauro Caviezel, Pinturault laid down a near-perfect slalom run for a combined total of 2min 04.90sec.

"You can't make any mistakes otherwise you have no chance to win it," said Pinturault of the combined.

"It's not like in other disciplines where you have a little room where you are able to make mistakes. In the combined, it's impossible."

It was a good day's racing for the 28-year-old Frenchman, coming after a confidence-boosting fourth-placed finish in Saturday's super-G.

His victory saw him leapfrog Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen into second spot in the overall standings, on 1,048 points.

Overall leader Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (1,082pts) missed out altogether in Saturday's super-G as he failed to finish the course, but the Norwegian held his nerve on the slalom to finish a combative third in the combined to bag 60pts.

- Everything is possible -

Kristoffersen on Saturday came in 22nd in his first-ever super-G race and elected to play it safe in the slalom section of the combined to ensure an 11th-placed finish, and 24 valuable points, to stay in the race (981pts).

"The battle is very close with Henrik and everything is possible... Aleksander is still the leader," Pinturault said.

Racers will tackle what promises to be a cliff-hanger of a giant slalom in the Austrian resort on Monday.

It is a discipline in which Pinturault has won four global bronze medals (2015 and 2019 worlds; 2014 and 2018 Olympics), while Kristoffersen is current Olympic silver medallist and reigning world champion.

Kilde, however, has never made a giant slalom podium, meaning Pinturault and Kristoffersen have, at least on paper, a golden opportunity to make up ground on the Norwegian.

"It says something about my equipment and how I race now and how I'm skiing in general when slalom works. Super-G was stable, nothing really special," said Kilde.

The Norwegian said he hoped the coronavirus, which has seen the cancellation or postponement of many sporting events worldwide, would not affect the race for the crystal globe.

"I'm not going to lose too much energy on it," the 27-year-old said.

"Tomorrow we have another race. If he (Pinturault) wins, then I have to step up my game as well."

After Monday's giant slalom, there remains in the calendar a trip to the Norwegian resort of Kvitfjell (downhill, super-G), Kranjska Gora in Slovenia (giant slalom, slalom) and then the March 18-22 season-ending finals in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Officials have already ruled that the finals in Cortina, which lies in the Veneto region badly affected by the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 29 people and infected more than 1,000 in Italy, be held without any fans over health concerns.