Kitzbuehel (Austria) (AFP) - French tyro Alexis Pinturault used all his slalom expertise to comprehensively win Sunday's World Cup super-combined to mark himself out as a medal favourite for the Sochi Olympics.
The 22-year-old clocked a total of 2min 02.79sec over a super-G and a slalom, standing 12th fastest after the first event but going on to set a lead time of 51.72sec in the technical event to finish ahead of reigning world champion in the discipline, American Ted Ligety.
It was Pinturault's sixth win on the World Cup circuit, following swiftly on the heels of his slalom victory in Wengen last weekend, and puts the medal spotlight firmly on the French racer ahead of next month's Winter Olympics.
"I'm just trying to continue what I'm doing," said Pinturault, who belied his young age with a superb display of controlled aggression on the floodlit, 38-gate Ganslerm course.
"It's not easy but I'll try to stay focused and be better and better for the Olympics."
Pinturault added: "Conditions were nothing like those in the slalom. They were normal conditions, with hard snow that didn't break up too much.
"I'm happy with my slalom run. The deficits were not very big after the super-G. Ligety was behind me and I was the big favourite. But I knew nothing was guaranteed, even if Marcel (Hirscher) went after the top 30.
"I didn't take stupid risks, I just put it all together, not at 130 percent."
Ligety, 0.89sec off the pace in the super-G, also capitalised on his superior technical skillbase, sending down the second fastest slalom run of 51.91sec under floodlights to finish 0.44sec off Pinturault.
Ligety's teammate Bode Miller was denied a third podium of the weekend after he was disqualified for straddling a gate.
"I'm satisifed with second," said Ligety. "This was my best slalom run of the year, for sure, but it was my worst super-G in a long time as well.
"I'm super-happy with second place, especially in a place like Kitzbuehel."
The drama meant a slot opened up for late starter and crowd favourite Hirscher, who had bombed out of Friday's slalom won by German Felix Neureuther.
With former California governor, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger looking on, the Austrian racer had a lot to do to make up a deficit of 1.53sec on the super-G.
But he attacked in his usual no-holds barred style and went on to post the third fastest slalom time for a total of 2:04.26, 1.47sec off Pinturault and a welcome home podium place.
"It's a really good result, especially having not got what I was expecting in the super-G. I was looking for a top-30 place to get a good bib for the slalom, but I'm definitely happy with the result," said Hirscher.
World Cup overall leader Aksel Lund Svindal skied out high up the slalom course after setting the second fastest super-G time, with Swiss winner Didier Defago not taking part in the super-combined.
Svindal, after finishing second in Saturday's downhill and equal third in the super-G, now has 897 points, with Hirscher in second on 795, Pinturault in third on 669 and Ligety in fourth (529).
The men's circuit moves on to Schladming, where there is a slalom on Tuesday. The final races before the Olympics are at St Moritz, with a downhill and giant slalom next weekend.