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Cuche, Ligety finish 1-2 in giant slalom

10/25/2009 - Olympic Sports

SOELDEN, Austria -- Didier Cuche of Switzerland and Ted Ligety of the United States finished 1-2 Sunday in the opening men's World Cup race, a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier skipped by U.S. star Bode Miller.

Cuche was trailing Ted Ligety by 0.01 seconds at the final checkpoint in the second run, but used his gliding skills to open a wide advantage over his American rival on the flatter section before the finish.

"A lot of weight brings me so fast to the finish," Cuche said half-jokingly.

Ligety is a giant slalom specialist, but Cuche also excels in the speed events of downhill and super-G and is more adept at skiing the flats.

"Both runs I lost at least six-tenths to Cuche on the bottom. That's a big difference to make up in a race," Ligety said. "He's a downhill skier, so you definitely see his strength down there in the straighter, faster section."

Cuche clocked a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 21.45 seconds for his 10th World Cup victory. Ligety finished 0.60 seconds behind and Carlo Janka of Switzerland was third, 0.95 back, as the top three held their positions from the opening run.

Miller, the overall World Cup champ in 2005 and 2008, plans to begin his season when the circuit resumes with men's and women's slaloms on Nov. 14-15 in Levi, Finland.

Cuche is the defending World Cup giant slalom champion, Ligety won the discipline two seasons ago, and Janka won the giant slalom at last season's world championships.

Ligety also finished second in 2007 here, and he was third last year.

"It's the first race of the year, so you don't know how fast you're skiing and you've really got to psych yourself up," the American said. "You only get to compare yourself to your teammates in training. But this hill has always been good for me."

Italian giant slalom specialist Max Blardone finished fourth and Olympic GS champion Benjamin Raich was fifth.

Skiing with a bruised leg, defending overall World Cup champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway veered off course near the end of his second run and did not finish.

"When I went out of start that was painful," Svindal said after finishing sixth in the opening leg. "If it continues to improve as fast as it has, it should be OK in three days -- I hope."

On Saturday, Tanja Poutiainen of Finland won the women's giant slalom on the Rettenbach.