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October 26, 2009

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Cuche takes giant slalom in Soelden

DIDIER Cuche ensured the Alpine skiing season opener remained in Swiss hands when he won the Soelden giant slalom yesterday.

Beaten into second place by compatriot Daniel Albrecht in the Austrian resort last winter, Cuche, who went on to win the discipline's World Cup, clocked a combined time of two minutes and 21.45 seconds to snatch his 10th World Cup victory.

Last year's winner Albrecht was seriously injured in a training crash in Kitzbuehel, Austria, on January 22 and was in an induced coma for three weeks. He has not sufficiently recovered to start the new season.

Super-G world champion Cuche beat American Ted Ligety by 0.60 seconds, with Swiss giant slalom world champion Carlo Janka in third place, 0.95 seconds adrift. "It's a huge satisfaction as it rewards months of practice. It's always hard in a season when you have to wait for your first win," Cuche said.

"Now, I know where I stand and this is a great relief."

In Albrecht's absence last season, Cuche unexpectedly won the 2009 giant slalom crystal globe despite being seen as more of a speed specialist.

Thanks to yesterday's victory, the 35-year-old has already equalled his 2008-2009 tally, when he only won one World Cup race, another giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy.

Ligety, who was third last year in Soelden and second two years ago behind Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, had to settle for his third successive podium on the Rettenbach glacier.

"I made too many mistakes in the first run. That's when I lost it. But this amounts to victory after my injury problems," said the American, who crashed in downhill training for his national championships last winter.

Svindal, the World Cup overall winner last season, failed to finish the afternoon's second run after being fifth fastest in the morning. The Norwegian started the race despite bruising a leg in training last week.

Fourth place went to Italian Massimiliano Blardone, ahead of Austrian Benjamin Raich, who probably expected much better for his 300th World Cup race.


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