LEVI, Finland (AP) — Felix Neureuther of Germany won the season-opening men’s World Cup slalom on Sunday after first-run leader Dave Ryding skied out.
Aiming to become the first British skier to win a race in the 50-year-history of the Alpine skiing World Cup, Ryding put in a dominant performance.
He led second-place Neureuther by 0.14 seconds after the opening leg and stretched his advantage to 0.51 in the final run before a mistake threw him off the course. He lay on his back in the snow for several seconds before getting up and skiing down.
It was the second time that Ryding came close to a World Cup triumph. He also led after the first run of the slalom in Kitzbuehel in January before finishing runner-up to Marcel Hirscher.
Ryding, who turns 31 next month, enjoyed his breakthrough on the World Cup last season, four years after winning the slalom title of the lower-tier Europa Cup circuit.
“I have been very lucky that Dave went out. He was extremely fast,” Neureuther said after finishing in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.83 seconds to beat Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway by 0.37 and Mattias Hargin of Sweden by 0.45.
“Winning my first race being a father makes it even more special,” said Neureuther, whose partner Miriam Goessner, a professional biathlete and cross-country skier, gave birth to daughter Matilda last month.
It was Neureuther’s 13th career victory but first since winning a slalom in Yuzawa Naeba, Japan, in January 2016. The 33-year-old German has been hindered by persistent back problems in recent seasons.
Hirscher was 1.32 behind in 17th spot in an unexpected appearance just 87 days after breaking his left ankle. The Austrian six-time overall champion only resumed training earlier this week.
Hirscher’s mishap occurred in August on his first day back on snow in the offseason. He was back on skis in early October but was forced to take another four weeks off because his ankle was still hurting too much.
“The first run was super, that went sensationally well,” said the Austrian, who was in fourth spot after the opening leg before several mistakes on the final run cost him.
“In the end I hoped for a better result,” Hirscher said. “But I have a lot of motivation to get my speed back. Today showed me that at the moment I am still lacking the class of the other guys.”
The race in Finnish Lapland was the first of the Olympic season after a giant slalom in Austria was canceled because of bad weather two weeks ago.
The men’s World Cup continues with speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 25-26.