WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — Loïc Meillard led the first run of a World Cup slalom on Sunday in what shaped up as another Switzerland-Norway duel.
Meillard was 0.45 seconds faster than Henrik Kristoffersen whose Norwegian teammate Lucas Braathen was third. The World Cup slalom standings leader has 0.48 to make up in the second run in the afternoon.
Norway is aiming to sweep the three-race weekend at Wengen — as the team did in 2016 — after Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won in downhill and super-G ahead of Swiss runners-up.
A Norway team coach will set the second-leg gates after a British design for the morning run helped create big time gaps in the standings.
Racers cited the tight and twisting track on the famously steep Wengen hill, combined with soft snow in an unseasonably warm winter, for the difficulty to post a fast time.
Only five racers were within 1.6 seconds of Meillard and all were among the high-ranked first eight starters. Britain’s Dave Ryding was 3.35 back in 14th place.
Racers placed in the top 20 times trailed the leader by more than four seconds — an enormous gap in World Cup skiing.
Meillard is a consistent performer in slalom, including fourth behind Braathen at nearby Adelboden last Sunday, though he has never won a race in the discipline.
Kristoffersen’s two career wins at Wengen include the Norwegian sweep in 2016 after Aksel Lund Svindal won the downhill and Kjetil Jansrud won the Alpine combined.
The Norwegian challenge will be without world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevaag who failed to complete the first run.
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