Mayer edges Pinturault for surprise combined win

Matthias Mayer enjoyed his unexpected combined victory in Wengen

Matthias Mayer was fastest in the downhill and then held off the slalom specialists to win the World Cup combined event in Wengen on Friday.

The Austrian speed specialist was fastest in the downhill and then managed a fourth place in the slalom to edge Frenchman Alexis Pinturault by 0.07sec overall.

"I had a perfect run. And my slalom was just incredible," said Mayer.

"I'm really happy."

A second Frenchman Victor Muffat-Jeandet completed the podium.

Mayer skied the downhill in 1 minute, 41.40 seconds, 0.53sec ahead of Swiss skier Gilles Roulin. Pinturault was 19th, 1.68sec slower.

Under new rules designed to give the speed specialists some help, Mayer, who hasn't trained "more than ten times in slalom this season," according to his coach, skied first on unbroken snow of the slalom course.

He produced a time which put pressure on the slalom specialists, many of whom stuttered.

"I felt great from start to finish. I tried to give the maximum," said Mayer.

Pinturault, the Olympic silver medallist in the combined in 2018 and winner in Wengen in 2018, was fastest down the slalom in 49.44sec, 0.84sec ahead of the next best time, by Swiss skier Loic Meillard.

Muffat-Jeandet, the Olympic bronze medallist and runner up in Wengen last year, was third but they were the only men to outpace Mayer.

"And at the end the gap was only 7 hundredths," the Austrian.

For the 29-year-old Austrian, an Olympic downhill and super-G champion, it was his seventh World Cup victory, and his first in the combined event.

Pinturault, who won the previous combined this season in Bormio in December, took over first place in the event standings ahead of Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen, who was not competing.

"These gaps, however small, are part of our sport," the Frenchman said. "Sometimes it's in our favour, other times it's not."

Pinturault was ambivalent about the new format.

"For us slalom racers it is very hard to make up the gaps after the downhill, so we have to take more risks," said Pinturault.

But, he added, the change "is pretty good because it allows downhill skiers to win and it's good for the future of the combined."