WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) – Marcel Hirscher is on track for a fifth straight win in World Cup slalom, taking a clear lead in the first run on Sunday.
The Austrian star was 0.35 seconds faster than Andre Myhrer of Sweden, who wore bib No. 2 and got second use of a clean snow surface.
Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway was third, trailing 0.59 behind Hirscher who leads their duels in the season-long standings.
Hirscher is the six-time defending overall World Cup champion, and swept the giant slalom and slalom races at nearby Adelboden last weekend.
Victory for Hirscher would be his 53rd in the World Cup – third on the men’s all-time list – though his first at storied Wengen. He has been runner-up here three times, including last year to Kristoffersen.
The home Swiss team quickly lost its best hope, when Alpine combined world champion Luca Aerni straddled the fifth gate.
Still, it placed Ramon Zenhausern and Daniel Yule, two of the tallest slalom racers on tour, in the top eight with more than a second to make up in the second run.
Despite a challenging course on a cold and dry day, four racers with starting bib numbers in the 50s were among the 30 fastest times. They qualify for a second run in the afternoon, when the gate setting switches to the other side of a farm building on the race hill.
The top-30 included Ryunosuke Ohkoshi of Japan, 2.62 back in 24th, and the fastest American, Nolan Kasper, 2.82 behind Hirscher in 28th.
Kasper was starting his first World Cup race in almost two years after sustaining a serious knee injury. The 28-year-old racer’s return could be in time to earn a third Olympic selection. He placed 13th and 24th in the previous two Olympic slaloms.
Britain’s Dave Ryding skied out early in his run and risks losing his place in the elite group of top-seven starters.