KVITFJELL – Aleksander Aamodt Kilde seized the lead in the overall World Cup standings by finishing second in Saturday's downhill won by Matthias Mayer.
Kilde picked up 80 points to take a lead of 54 over Alexis Pinturault, who was outside the top-30 scoring places in his first downhill start since 2013.
The title race calls for different tactics after Friday’s cancellation of the March 18-22 finals meeting at Cortina d’Ampezzo, in a northern Italy region affected by the spreading coronavirus.
Only three races are now left — a super-G at Kvitfjell on Sunday, plus a giant slalom and slalom next weekend at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. Pinturault could score points in all three, while Kilde has never raced a traditional World Cup slalom.
“A pretty good result today, then I can just have fun (Sunday) and see how it goes," Kilde said.
Under clear skies and sunshine on Saturday, Kilde wore No. 3 and set a tough target on a course where he was fastest in both training runs this week.
Mayer, wearing No. 13, led Kilde at every time split to finish 0.14 seconds ahead. Carlo Janka was third, trailing the winner by 0.37.
Beat Feuz was fourth. The Swiss racer’s title in the season-long downhill standings was confirmed by the cancellation of a scheduled final race at Cortina.
Mayer added victory on Kilde's home course in Norway to his own win in Austria’s signature downhill at Kitzbühel in January.
“It’s very difficult to beat the Norwegians here," said Mayer. The two-time Olympic gold medalist now has nine career World Cup wins including four in this most consistent season of his career, at the age of 29.
The fastest speed of 130 kph (80 mph) was clocked by Travis Ganong of the United States, who placed fifth.
The overall title rivalry will be renewed Sunday with Kilde slightly favored. He has three podium finishes in super-G this season, and Pinturault has twice placed fourth.
After eight straight overall titles for the now-retired Marcel Hirscher, Kilde aims to be the first winner who scored regularly in speed races since 2010, when Janka lifted the giant crystal globe trophy.
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