Hirscher leads Neureuther in final WCup slalom

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (AP) -- Marcel Hirscher of Austria took a small lead over Felix Neureuther in their duel for the World Cup slalom title on Sunday, on a first-run course branded ugly and unfair by the German skier's team boss.

The gate-setting by an Austrian coach was "ridiculous," according to American Ted Ligety who was 15th fastest the day after edging Hirscher for the giant slalom title.

Hirscher, who clinched the overall World Cup title Saturday, used the best snow conditions racing first to be 0.06 seconds faster than Neureuther, who started at No. 3.

Neureuther was clearly annoyed on completing his run and had sharp words for the television camera in the finish area.

Neureuther leads Hirscher by five points in the slalom standings, and the title is a straight contest between them in the second run if they both place in the top four.

Olympic champion Mario Matt was third fastest, trailing 1.03 behind Hirscher's time of 1 minute, 6.99 seconds.

Germany team director Wolfgang Maier said the tight-set, turning course was unsuitable on soft snow, and designed to rut quickly after Hirscher raced.

"It's too soft and too wet to fix a good surface. It's really bad to have this performance worldwide," Maier said.

Austria team director Hans Pum said coaches were entitled to set difficult courses.

"If athletes are competing at this high level you can set what you can because these are the best of the world," Pum said. "Nobody knew how the slope would develop."

Still, Maier said the Austria team was "the most unfair nation," adding it had considered filing a protest against Neureuther's skis on Saturday.

The German racer's third-place finish in giant slalom ensured race winner Ligety beat Hirscher on a tiebreaker for the season-long title.

"When they win everything, everything is fine," Maier said of the Austria team. "Always they are finding something to show not really good sportsmanship."

Ligety said the first-run course was "not really a slalom" and no fun to race.

"There is a silly competition going on among some World Cup coaches on who can set the most ridiculous thing," the American said.

France officials were annoyed at how fourth-placed Jean-Baptiste Grange dropped two seconds after leading on the top section.

Grange was unhappy with switchback gates midway down that even had Neureuther digging his poles into the snow to try to generate speed.

Still, Hirscher will have the worst of the conditions in the second run racing last, immediately after Neureuther, on a course set by the Sweden team.

Bode Miller delighted the crowd by twice hiking back up the hill to go through the gates after appearing to ski out.

Miller finished his run to big cheers and applause, 47.98 seconds behind Hirscher.