Clement Noël led the first run of a rare men’s World Cup slalom held in Flachau as a late backup venue during the coronavirus pandemic.
Noël was 0.23 seconds faster than Sebastian Foss-Solevaag on a course named for hometown favorite and Austrian skiing great Hermann Maier.
Manuel Feller was third in the steady falling snow on Saturday morning, with 0.25 to make up on the French leader in the afternoon second run. Noël also led the first run last Sunday at Adelboden, Switzerland, then dropped to finish eighth.
Flachau stepped in to host its first men’s slalom for nine years after two schedule changes this week.
Switzerland’s signature venue Wengen was ruled out on Monday from hosting its storied Lauberhorn meeting this weekend after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the village. It was likely caused by British tourists.
Kitzbühel, which stages its classic Hahnenkamm downhill next Saturday, was then slated to host its own slalom and Wengen’s this weekend. They were then switched to Flachau to give more time for virus tests in Kitzbühel.
Flachau hosted its traditional women’s night slalom on Tuesday — won by Mikaela Shiffrin — and is a flatter slope than most on the men’s circuit.
A tough section in Saturday’s first run was the opening set of gates, and No. 1 starter Daniel Yule skied out within five seconds.
Yule, a three-time winner last season, and defending World Cup slalom champion Henrik Kristoffersen have struggled for consistency. Kristoffersen placed outside the top 20, 1.72 slower than Noël and was reluctant to be filmed in the finish area.
The cameras lingered on Kristoffer Jakobsen cleaning his bloodied nose and mouth after his fourth-place run, 0.44 back.
Alexander Khoroshilov of Russia was on track for the fastest time when he lost rhythm then straddled a gate.
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