Switzerland’s Albrecht wins World Cup GS; Ligety second | AspenTimes.com

Switzerland’s Albrecht wins World Cup GS; Ligety second

Eric Willemsen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ted Ligety, of the United States, speeds down the course on his way to take third place in an alpine ski men's World Cup giant slalom race, in Soelden, Austria, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

SOELDEN, Austria ” The target is now squarely on Ted Ligety’s back.

The World Cup giant slalom champion from the U.S. wore the red bib as the discipline champion for the first time Sunday and finished third in the season-opening race behind the Swiss duo of Daniel Albrecht and Didier Cuche on the icy Rettenbach course.

Albrecht, who led after the first leg, finished in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 15.78 seconds to beat Cuche by 0.14 seconds. Ligety was 1.25 seconds behind Albrecht.

Though Ligety couldn’t match the second runs put in by the Swiss skiers, he was pleased with his result.

“I am definitely happy,” he said. “It’s good to be on the podium after the first race.”

Ligety climbed from fourth after the opening leg to third despite posting only the 20th best time in his second run.

“The second run was a little tough,” Ligety said. “I did really well coming into the big ditch, but I made a big mistake. I lost my confidence there.”

Ligety had expected strong competition from Albrecht and Cuche for his giant slalom title.

“Today they were so fast, that was pretty incredible,” Ligety said.

Defending overall champion Bode Miller was fifth after the opening run, but the American was 21st on his second to finish 10th, trailing Albrecht by 1.59 seconds.

American Tim Jitloff finished 20th, 2.44 seconds behind Albrecht, to earn his first World Cup points.

“It was like a hurdle and now I can say I’ve done it and feel confident,” Jitloff said. “A bunch of guys in our team have great success in the World Cup and now I can say: ‘Hey, I can do that too.’ “

It was Albrecht’s third World Cup victory after two wins in 2007 ” a giant slalom and a super combined, both in Beaver Creek, Colo. He also became the first Swiss to win the season-opening event since Steve Locher in 1996.

“Someone told me before the start it was that long ago that a Swiss racer won here,” Albrecht said. “So I thought it was about time to change that.”

Albrecht was the last racer on the course after Cuche had just posted the fastest time.

“I became very nervous when I saw Didier’s time in the second run, it put me under a lot of pressure,” Albrecht said.

The 25-year-old hopes to contend for the overall World Cup this season.

“If I can do well on the speed events, then we’ll see. But it sure is a huge goal in my career,” Albrecht said.

Cuche was surprised to take second.

“I was feeling well, but you never know how fast you are until you actually race,” said Cuche, who recovered from a mountain biking accident in the offseason. “I was going for top 10, so this is a great result.”

Former overall champion Aksel Lund Svindal, who won the race last year, made his return to the World Cup circuit almost a year after a downhill training crash put him out for the season. He finished 13th, 1.76 seconds behind Albrecht.

“I am feeling good, but I obviously can’t be satisfied with how I raced,” Svindal said.

The men’s World Cup circuit continues with a slalom race in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 16.

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