LA VILLA, Italy (AP) — A slightly different wax job or a bit sharper ski edges can mean all the difference in a sport decided by hundredths of a second.
So, too, can a slight alteration to the ski boots.
Just ask Henrik Kristoffersen, the Norwegian who won his first World Cup giant slalom race in two years on Sunday with a new setup.
“It was a struggle last year. So we found something,” Kristoffersen said. ”You see today that everything is possible. I’m not saying I will win every race but now we have the opportunity to ski good every race.”
What exactly did Kristoffersen change?
“I can’t tell you,” he said.
Whatever it was, the confidence that Kristoffersen has suddenly rediscovered enabled him to move up from seventh after the opening leg to win one of the toughest GS races on the circuit, on the Gran Risa course in Alta Badia.
Kristoffersen's last GS win also came on the Gran Risa, in 2019, en route to the season-long discipline title.
“But the course was shortened for that race,” he said of 2019. “So this is the first real win here.”
Kristoffersen finished 0.31 seconds ahead of overall World Cup leader Marco Odermatt and 0.37 ahead of Manuel Feller of Austria.
While he won the opening two GS races of the season, Odermatt was satisfied with finishing second, especially having just competed in super-G in Val Gardena, and with another GS scheduled for the Gran Risa on Monday.
“Two GS days is really hard," Odermatt said. "It’s one of the most exhausting giant slaloms anywhere on the tour, and having two of them (is tough).”
First-run leader Mathieu Faivre struggled in his second trip down the twisty course and finished 16th, despite one of his French coaches setting the second run.
It was the 24th World Cup victory of Krisoffersen’s career, moving him ahead of teammate Kjetil Jansrud and former Swiss standout Michael von Grünigen into a tie for 16th on the all-time list with Italian great Gustav Thöni.
Kristoffersen has 19 slalom wins and now five in giant slalom.
American racer River Radamus matched his best career result by finishing sixth, despite crossing the line during his opening run in a deep crouch, just barely keeping it together as he lost control then spun out in the finish area. He stood fourth after the first leg.
The 23-year-old Radamus won three golds at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics and four medals (two golds and two silvers) at the junior world championships.
“I love this hill and getting sixth here is huge for me. It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Radamus said. "I take the points, take the result and I keep going forward.”
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Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press