France's Noel wins slalom in rainy Chamonix

Chamonix (France) (AFP) –


France's Clement Noel held his nerve in rainy conditions to claim victory in Saturday's World Cup slalom in Chamonix, almost 12 months on from his last win, on the very same slope.

Third fastest in the opening leg, Noel clocked a winning aggregate of 1min 38.18sec over the two runs.

It was a seventh World Cup victory for the 23-year-old French racer, all having come in the slalom.

"It feels good. It was a great day," Noel said. "It wasn't a perfect day like last year when we had the sun, the hard snow and the crowd.

"This year, we don't have an audience, it's a bit different, but it's still a pretty great day because it's been a while since I last won."

Noel said the victory had lifted the weight off his shoulders, coming at a timely moment ahead of the February 8-22 world ski championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

"Winning a race in the winter is at least what I wanted to do," he said.

"I would have liked there to have been more victories but what's gone is water under the bridge.

"In the last four races I've finished second twice and once first. It's very, very good. I'll enjoy the moment before refocusing tomorrow on the world championships."

- Pinturault consolidates lead -

Switzerland's Ramon Zenhaeusern finished second, at 0.16sec, while Austrian Marco Schwarz, who was fastest in the first run, rounded out the podium, a further three-hundredths adrift.

Zenhaeusern's teammate Luca Aerni came close to causing a massive shock with a storming second run that saw him jump 25 places from 29th after the first run (+2.15) to fourth overall, just 0.47sec off Noel.

Alexis Pinturault consolidated his lead at the top of the overall World Cup standings, the Frenchman's eighth-placed finish netting him 32 points to take his season tally to 892pts.

Discipline leader Schwarz's podium finish saw him leapfrog Switzerland's Marco Odermatt (607) into second, on 626pts, in the general classification.

Pinturault said he was satisfied with coming away with a top-eight finish in tricky conditions, with heavy rain affecting visibility and the quality of the snow.

"It was fair enough, even if I made a mistake on the first run," said the Frenchman, a three-time Olympic medallist who is the reigning world combined champion.

"I didn't feel great this morning, I was in a bad mood. There are some days better than others, and today was a bad one."