SCHLADMING, Austria – Right after finishing his second run and taking the lead in the race, Marco Schwarz held up one finger.

There were still five more racers to come down at the World Cup night slalom on Tuesday, but the Austrian held on to his No. 1 position.

Schwarz improved from sixth after the opening run to win by a big margin, 0.68 seconds ahead of Clément Noël. Another French skier, Alexis Pinturault, was 0.82 behind in third.

“It’s amazing, it’s the classic to win,” Schwarz said. “Schladming was on top of my wish list. To win here was a big dream.”

The night slalom at the resort of the 2013 world championships is usually attended by tens of thousands of spectators lining up along both sides of the course, but no visitors were allowed this time amid strict anti-coronavirus measures in Austria.

“Normally there are 45,000 people, this year is a little bit different, but the win feels amazing,” said Schwarz, who earned his sixth podium result in seven slaloms this season.

Marco Schwarz (AUT).

Schwarz, who extended his lead in the discipline standings, previously won in Adelboden, Switzerland, and became the first to win two slaloms this season, after the first six races produced as many different winners.

“Second run I had to full attack. It went pretty good the second run, so I’m really happy,” Schwarz said.

His Austrian teammate Manuel Feller held a commanding lead after the opening run but skied out after only six gates into his final run.

Feller’s mishap resembled Schwarz’s fate in last year’s race, when he led after the opening run but failed to finish his second.

Another Austrian who did well in the opening run, third-ranked Michael Matt, straddled a gate and also failed to finish.

Sebastian Foss-Solevåg of Norway dropped from second to fourth after a problem with his goggles midway through his final run when the lens came off.

With the best skiers from the opening run struggling, Pinturault used the opportunity to gain eight places by posting the fastest time in the final run.

“It was a good performance. I won the second run but I was also lucky. What happened to Sebastian is incredible,” said Pinturault, who extended his overall lead over runner-up Marco Odermatt to 253 points. The Swiss skier doesn’t compete in slalom.

Wearing bib 66, independent racer Alex Leever was the leading American in 24th position, his first points-scoring result in just his third-career World Cup start. Leever made a dramatic save in the final couple gates to crash through the finish line and secure the result.

Alex Leever (USA).

“Today was pretty incredible,” said Leever. “Over the last month, I’ve scored my first Europa Cup points, gotten my first Europa Cup top 15, skied my first World Cup, gotten my first second run, then scored my first points! It’s all pretty surreal, crossing the finish line first run and seeing that I was in the flip was the biggest endorphin rush of my life. It’s been a long, unconventional road, and to see it come this far is pretty insane.”

American Jett Seymour was next best in 25th. And, after a stellar first-run performance in which he jumped from bib 47 to 17th, Ben Ritchie failed to finish second run.

Ryan Wilson, the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team men’s World Cup slalom coach, was also excited about the progress in the race and seeing three U.S. men in the second run. “Another very productive first step,” he said. “Three new guys in the second run — that’s something we gotta celebrate.”

Canadian Erik Read was the top North American in 22nd.

Henrik Kristoffersen, who won the season-long slalom title last year, was 24th after a disappointing first run but was third fastest in the final run to finish 11th.

Clement Noel, Julien Lizeroux and Alexis Pinturault (FRA).

Retiring after 21 years on the World Cup circuit, Julien Lizeroux just missed qualifying for the second run in the final race of his career, four hours after his girlfriend, Tessa Worley, won a women’s giant slalom in Italy.

The Frenchman took off his bib in the finish area and dropped it, while saying into a TV camera: “Lizeroux: Out!”

His best years were 2009 and 2010, when he placed third and second respectively in the slalom standings and won silver medals in slalom and super combined at the 2009 world championships in Val d’Isère.

Lizeroux and Worley were both part of the French team that won the team event at the worlds in St. Moritz four years ago.

The men’s World Cup continues with two more slaloms in Chamonix, France this weekend.

World Cup – Men’s Slalom – Schladming Austria – Jan. 26, 2021

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