ADELBODEN, Switzerland — Weaving wildly down the steep final slope, Marcel Hirscher somehow found a way to outduel Henrik Kristoffersen yet again on Saturday.
Hirscher’s thrilling victory was his third in a World Cup giant slalom this season with his biggest rival runner-up each time. It also lifted the 28-year-old Austrian into third on the men’s World Cup all-time wins list.
The Hirscher-Kristoffersen contest shapes as one of Alpine skiing’s best rivalries heading into the Pyeongchang Winter Games next month, when both will seek a first Olympic gold medal.
Hirscher hung on for the win by just 0.17 seconds despite losing speed, and most of his half-second lead, taking a wide line cresting the slope down to the finish.
He went wide again three gates from the end and, on crossing the finish line, fell to the snow as if in disbelief that he won.
“Once again the luck was on my side,” Hirscher said in a finish-area interview broadcast to a crowd of 31,000 for the classic Swiss race.
Kristoffersen applauded his opponent and smiled wryly for the cameras on being runner-up for the sixth time in all races this season — four of them behind the same man. He has yet to win and is currently second to Hirscher in three different season-long standings.
“It was a real fight,” Kristoffersen said of Hirscher. “At the moment he is just better.”
Alexis Pinturault of France placed third Saturday, trailing 0.21 behind Hirscher, the six-time defending overall champion.
Hirscher extended his lead in the overall and giant slalom season standings from second-place Kristoffersen.
With his 51st career World Cup win, the 28-year-old Austrian broke a tie with Alberto Tomba that lasted only two days. Hirscher won a slalom Thursday at Zagreb, Croatia.
Hirscher now trails only his fellow Austrian Hermann Maier (54) and Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark (86) on the wins list 51 years after the World Cup began.
A sixth career win at Adelboden also lifted Hirscher over Stenmark’s five on the Chuenisbaergli hill. However, when Stenmark raced in the 1970s and ’80s, the course staged only a giant slalom.
Hirscher and Kristoffersen will start favorites in slalom on Sunday.
“I am not confident,” Kristoffersen said. “He has won three in a row, or something, in slalom.”
Olympic champion Ted Ligety, the winner here in 2013, skied out in the second run on a darkening course after being eighth fastest in the morning sunshine.
Fans packed the stands in record numbers for one of Switzerland’s favorite sports events after overnight repairs to rebuild a section of the main road into Adelboden. It was damaged by the Eleanor storm that swept across Europe in midweek.