THIS IS A FIRST-RUN STORY. READ THE SECOND-RUN STORY HERE.

ZAGREB, Croatia – French skier Clement Noel took a commanding lead in a men’s World Cup slalom after the opening run Wednesday.

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Noel, who is seeking his first win of the season, mastered the tricky Crveni Spust course and led Sebastian Foss-Solevaag of Norway by 0.36 seconds.

Manuel Feller was 0.51 behind in third, followed by Austrian teammate Marco Schwarz in fourth.

Noel won the race on the outskirts of the Croatian capital last year before adding wins in Wengen and Chamonix. He trailed Henrik Kristoffersen by only two points in the discipline standings when the season was stopped amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Noel had a rough start to the new season, failing to qualify for the second run of two giant slaloms and a slalom. However, he improved and finished fifth in the last race of 2020, a night slalom in Italy.

Kristoffersen opened Wednesday’s race with Bib No. 1 but struggled to find speed on the soft snow surface. The Norwegian had more than a second to make up on Noel in the final run.

Alexis Pinturault, who is expected to go to the top of the overall standings, was 0.92 behind in seventh. The Frenchman trails Aleksander Aamodt Kilde by three points, but the defending overall champion from Norway doesn’t compete in slaloms.

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