ALTA BADIA, Italy – Alexis Pinturault held off a challenge from unheralded Norwegian skier Atle Lie McGrath to win the classic men’s World Cup giant slalom on the Gran Risa course Sunday.
After leading the first run, the Frenchman mastered the steep and technically demanding course in the Italian Alps for a second time to beat McGrath by seven hundredths.
“It was really close. It was a huge fight,” Pinturault said.
“The light was slowly going down because it started to be a little bit late. It made such a difference in the pitch. But I tried my best and pushed really hard and it paid off.”
Justin Murisier finished 0.24 seconds behind in third for the Swiss skier’s first career podium result.
Marco Odermatt and Filip Zubcic were in the top three after the opening run but dropped to fourth and 10th, respectively.
McGrath, who had not finished in the top 10 in 13 previous starts, was born in Vermont. He is the son of Felix McGrath, a World Cup skier for the US ski team in the 1980s and 90s.
When Atle Lie was two years old, the family moved to Norway, the home country of his mother, the former cross-country skier Selma Lie.
Wearing bib 29, the 20-year-old McGrath surprised by posting the fourth fastest time in the first run, and he managed to improve on that by taking the lead in the second.
Pinturault started his final run with a buffer of 0.46 seconds over the Norwegian, but lost time at nearly every check point before narrowly holding on to his lead.
“This was really unbelievable,” McGrath said. “My goal today was to have fun. My first time skiing the Gran Risa from the top, such a nice day, the slope was beautiful. I told myself to enjoy the moment and ski as well as I can. It is so fun when you do your best and you really succeed.”
His father’s career best on the World Cup was coming runner-up at a slalom in Are, Sweden in March 1988.
“His best result was second place, so I tied him today. My goal now is to beat him,” McGrath said.
Pinturault gathered 15 of his 31 career World Cup wins in GS, but Sunday’s result marked his first podium in the discipline this season.
The four races so far had four different winners, with Lucas Braathen, Zubcic, and Odermatt triumphing in the previous races.
Braathen, a 20-year-old teammate of McGrath’s, finished 18th.
The result put Pinturault level with Italian great Alberto Tomba, who was attending the race, in fifth on the all-time GS winners list.
“That’s incredible, that’s special. I am very satisfied that I can have 15 wins in GS. This discipline is the most important for me,” Pinturault said.
Among active skiers, only American Ted Ligety has more GS wins with 24.
The win saw Pinturault return to the top of the overall standings, one point clear of defending overall champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.
Pinturault lost his lead in the rankings to Kilde after the Norwegian posted back-to-back wins in speed races in nearby Val Gardena on Friday and Saturday.
Pinturault trailed Kilde by 54 points last season, when the remaining six races were canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
For the Americans, Tommy Ford had the best result in fifth, followed by River Radamus, 20th, Ted Ligety, 26th, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle, 29th. Erik Read was the lone Canadian in points. He finished 19th.
“First run, I didn’t quite have the fire and made a better adjustment second run and allowed that to come out,” Ford said. “I was a bit round and had a hard time finding the rhythm first run, but second run, I was more in the fall line and hitting with more power and burned all the way through the finish.”
The men’s World Cup remains in Italy for slaloms in Alta Badia on Monday and Madonna di Campiglio on Tuesday.
World Cup – Men’s Giant Slalom – Alta Badia – Dec. 20, 2020