France’s Worley wins giant slalom; Vonn 8th

Joseph Wilson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
France's Tessa Worley celebrates in the finish area after winning an alpine ski, women's World Cup giant slalom, in Soldeu-Grandvalira, Andorra, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

SOLDEU-GRANDVALIRA, Andorra – Tessa Worley of France fought off gusting winds to win a second consecutive World Cup giant slalom Sunday in the Andorran Pyrenees while overall leader Lindsey Vonn finished eighth.

Worley led after the opening run and withstood a strong challenge by Slovenia’s Tina Maze to win in in 2 minutes, 1.80 seconds for her seventh career victory.

Maze was 0.16 seconds behind and chipped into Vonn’s commanding point total with her seventh top-three finish of the season. Defending World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch was third, 0.75 seconds off the pace.

This was the first time Andorra, a small principality tucked between France and Spain, hosted World Cup events.

Vonn, still on course for her fourth overall title, was 1.36 seconds behind. Even though she was denied a big points haul, the American still holds a 410-point cushion over Maze and is confident about her chances of reclaiming the title.

“It looks pretty good,” she said. “There are quite a few more speed races left, not many tech races. So it looks pretty solid at this point.”

Vonn, who crashed during Saturday’s slalom on the same hill, was unable to recover from a bumpy first run.

“Unfortunately, I made a really big mistake right in the middle of the course going onto the flat and lost a lot of time,” she said.

Maze agreed that her chances of catching Vonn are slim.

“Hope, you always have to have it,” the giant slalom world champion said. “But 400 points is a lot, so I don’t think she feels any pressure.”

Strong winds, which forced the cancellation of Friday’s giant slalom, again threatened the race as gusts picked up after the first run. Organizers reduced the course to 300 yards and 39 gates from the 400 yards and 50 gates in the opening run.

“In the first run there was a lot of wind at the start, so it was better” after the change, said Worley, who won the previous giant slalom event last month in Slovenia. “But I didn’t want to think about it and just focused on my skiing.”

Worley’s triumph moved her ahead of Olympic gold medalist Viktoria Rebensburg into first place in the giant slalom standings. Rebensburg was one of 10 skiers who failed to finish the first run after missing a gate. It was the German’s first time in more than three years she didn’t finish a giant slalom.

Just after Maze had gone in front with a strong final run, Worley sliced down the shortened course on the Avet slope.

“In the second run I just stayed fast and kept my speed up until the finish,” Worley said.

On Saturday, Marlies Schild of Austria won her sixth slalom of the season.

The women next race in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Olympics, for downhill and super-combined races.