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Viletta delights Swiss fans in Adelboden

Sandro Viletta of Switzerland en route to fourth place in a World Cup giant slalom at the Swiss resort of Adelboden

(Keystone)

Benjamin Raich of Austria has won the classic men's World Cup giant slalom at the Swiss resort of Adelboden.

But the surprise of the day was 22-year-old Swiss skier Sandro Viletta, who improved from 25th after the first run to finish fourth, missing out on his first World Cup podium by two-tenths of a second.

Raich, who also won on the famously steep Kuonisbärgli piste in 2006 and 2007, had a two-run time of 2 minutes, 24.95 seconds. Italy's Massimiliano Blardone was 0.24 seconds behind, while Kjetil Jansrud of Norway was third, trailing Raich by 0.72.

Ted Ligety of the United States, the defending World Cup giant slalom champion, improved from 28th after the morning run to finish ninth.

Defending overall champion Bode Miller skied out before halfway in the morning when he caught a gate. It was the eighth time in 16 events this season he has failed to complete a race.

"It's great here," said 30-year-old Raich. "It's very difficult and a great atmosphere. The Swiss crowd is behind their team."

But it was a disappointing day for the Swiss skiers, with Viletta, who had previously never finished in the top 15 of a giant slalom, having the best race to finish fourth. Daniel Albrecht, who led the discipline standings going into the race, nearly skied out just before the finish and had to settle for 26th place.

Marc Berthoud, who won in Adelboden last year, finished sixth and other Swiss skiers to end in the points were Didier Cuche (11th), Carlo Janka (22nd) and Didier Défago (29th).

After five of eight World Cup giant slaloms Raich leads Ligety, Cuche, Blardone and Albrecht.

In the overall World Cup standings, Raich is also the one to catch on 533 points, ahead of Jean-Baptiste Grange of France (478) and Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (470).

Swiss fans can be satisfied however that there are four Swiss skiers in the overall top ten: Cuche is fifth (403), Albrecht sixth (367), Janka seventh (366) and Défago ninth (333).

"Highlight"

Before the race Albrecht, who finished second on the Kuonisbärgli piste last year, could think of no better place to pull away from his rivals.

"For the Swiss guys Adelboden is the highlight of the year," he said on Friday. He denied he would feel any extra pressure in front of 25,000 home fans.

"I feel comfortable in this situation because I know I'm skiing well and doing things right most of the time," he said.

The race has been staged since 1958 – when it was won by Switzerland's Roger Staub – and predates the World Cup circuit by nine years. Six different Swiss racers have won in the Cup era, including Cuche in 2002.

The undulating Kuonisbärgli course is so challenging that even the best Swiss juniors are kept away until they are absolutely ready.

"You don't go on this slope earlier because I think it is pretty difficult to ski on," said Albrecht, the 2006 Olympic super-combined gold medallist who raced here for the first time only five years ago.

The Adelboden World Cup meet continues with a slalom race on Sunday.

Ladies day

Elsewhere in the mountains on Saturday, 17-year-old Swiss prodigy Lara Gut continued to stake her claim to be Switzerland's best female skier when she came sixth in a Women's World Cup giant Slalom in Maribor, Slovenia.

Gut finished the Pohorje course in 2:46.62, behind local skier Tina Maze, Denise Karbon of Italy, Kathrin Hölzl of Germany, Tanja Poutiainen of Finland and Manuela Moelgg of Italy.

Fränzi Aufdenblatten was the top-placed Swiss skier after the first run – she was seventh and Gut was ninth – but her second run ended after ten seconds when she missed a gate.

After five of eight giant slalom races Gut lies fifth. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland is leading.

In the overall World Cup standings, Gut is eighth with 337 points. Germany's Maria Riesch leads with 629 points.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Men's Adelboden giant slalom result:

1.Benjamin Raich (Austria) 2:24,95 (1:12,33/1:12,62);
2. Massimiliano Blardone (Italy) 2:25,19 (1:12,53/1:12,66);
3. Kjetil Jansrud (Norway) 2:25,67 (1:14,19/1:11,48);
4. Sandro Viletta (Switzerland) 2:25,87 (1:14,76/1:11,11);
5. Cyprien Richard (France) 2:26,05 (1:13,67/1:12,38);
6. Marc Berthod (Switzerland) 2:26,25 (1:13,79/1:12,46);
7. Steve Missillier (France) 2:26,27 (1:14,38/1:11,89);
8. Alexander Ploner (Italy) 2:26,34 (1:14,67/1:11,67);
9. Ted Ligety (United States) 2:26,35 (1:14,97/1:11,38);
10. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway) 2:26,37 (1:13,50/1:12,87).

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