WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) – Showing yet again that good slalom beats good downhill in Alpine combined, Victor Muffat-Jeandet rose from 27th place to win a World Cup on Friday.
The Frenchman got his first career win using the fastest run in slalom to finish 0.96 seconds ahead of Pavel Trikhichev of Russia.
Trikhichev, who also got a career-best result, had been 29th after the morning downhill, earning use of the best snow surface in slalom when the top 30 start in reverse order.
“Combined is always a crazy day,” Muffat-Jeandet said. “You have to fight to stay in the top 30 in downhill.”
Peter Fill of Italy was the best of the downhill specialists, placing third 1.15 behind Muffat-Jeandet after being fourth fastest in the morning. Fill edged Kjetil Jansrud of Norway off the podium by 0.01.
Trikhichev’s previous World Cup best was 16th last Saturday in a giant slalom at nearby Adelboden.
“Surprised, I was really shocked,” the Russian said of his runner-up performance which earned 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,600) in prize money. “I (thought I) could be top 10 but podium is just, ‘Wow.'”
First-run leader Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria started his slalom run with 2.55 in hand over Muffat-Jeandet but quickly skied out.
World champion Luca Aerni of Switzerland also failed to finish the slalom when holding a 0.40-second lead over Muffat-Jeandet from downhill.
When Aerni won the gold medal on home snow at St. Moritz last February, he was 30th in downhill and got a first run on a clean slalom surface. The 2015 world title was also won by the 30th fastest downhill racer, Austrian star Marcel Hirscher.
The field on Friday was weakened by the winner of the previous combined this season, Alexis Pinturault of France, opting not to start to focus on training for a slalom on Sunday.
Pinturault’s absence allowed Jansrud to close the gap on his third place in the overall World Cup points standings led by six-time defending champion Hirscher who will next race Sunday.
Though men’s and women’s combined are on the Olympic program at the Pyeongchang Games next month, the event’s long-term future is in question.
A mixed gender team event in parallel slalom debuts at the Olympics and the more dynamic, television-friendly racing format is being promoted by the International Ski Federation.
Muffat-Jeandet suggested there would be no World Cup combined event next year at Wengen, where he got a first career podium finish in 2015.
“It’s a little bit of a shame because maybe I will not be coming back in downhill because there will not be a combined,” he said.
The highlight of the three-race meeting is the storied Lauberhorn downhill on Saturday over 4.3 kilometers, the longest course on the World Cup circuit.
On a shorter 2.9-kilometer course on Friday, the fastest speed of 146.97 kph (92 mph) was clocked by Dominik Paris of Italy. He placed fifth overall, 0.03 behind teammate Fill.
Clear blue skies are forecast on Saturday for Switzerland’s favorite Alpine race which was cancelled last year because of poor weather.