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Blardone wins GS in Switzerland; USA's Ligety 9th

Courtesy of www.fisalpine.com

by Ana Jelusic

Crans Montana, Switzerland (Sports Network) - Massimiliano Blardone takes home his second victory of the season. The Italian Giant Slalom specialist, who was second after the first run, skied a perfect second run down the rutty slope in Crans Montana and with a time of 2 minutes, 33.77 seconds made a step forward to the very top of the podium. Marcel Hirscher, the leader after the first run struggled a little in the second run but still managed to land a spot on the podium, he finished second .16 seconds behind Blardone. The surprise of the day came from Hirscher's teammate Hannes Reichelt - with a perfect second run he moved up to third place, after being 11th in the first run.

Aksel Lund Svindal, who was third after the first run unfortunately didn't finish the second run- half the way down the course he got catapulted in the air by a bump and landed on his back and head. He was able to ski down on his own but was icing his neck just moments. Even though he didn't look hurt, he sure took a good beating.

Blardone was thrilled with his performance, he jumped on the air fences in the finish area and made his numerous supporters go wild.

"This has been such a beautiful season for me," Blardone said. "After struggling for a long time, two victories and two more podiums make me very, very happy. Today the snow was the biggest challenge; it was soft and difficult so managing to keep my advantage is just great."

Before Alta Badia this year, Blardone had almost three years without a victory but this year it seems as if he found some stability and new motivations. After winning in Alta Badia, he skied into third place in Adelboden and was second in Bansko just a week ago. The first victory was dedicated to the boy he and his girlfriend are expecting in April, and this time again his first thoughts went in that direction. Already from the leader box he asked to have his girlfriend escorted to the prize giving.

"My family will be expanding in a few months, and I would never have thought that that would have worked as such a good motivation. I have a bigger responsibility than the one for myself now, I need to finish my house and be able to have everything ready for the new situation. I'm in a good place with my skiing now and I hope the result will just keep coming - if I would have known things would work like this for me, I might have started a family way earlier," Blardone jokes about the why he is back on top of his game this season.

Second run was a challenge for the skiers starting later on, the course kept getting softer and a lot of the top skiers struggled to hold on to their positions from the first run. Hirscher might not have kept his top spot, but didn't seem disappointed with his second place.

"This was a difficult race and I think that being able to still win some important points is what matters," Hirscher said. "As in the Super G, the most important is making it down without injuries, there were plenty of guys that got in trouble coming down."

After a second place in the GS in Alta Badia, this is the second podium in the discipline for Reichelt. This is his fifth podium in the season but he wasn't able to win yet. Maybe the next races in Kvitfjell (two SG races and a DH) will finally be his chance to stand at the very top.

"I think I had a really good run," Reichelt said. "I focused on what I needed to do in order to be fast and tried to work on those details on my way down. I was able to avoid any major mistakes and can say that I am leaving for Kvitfjell with a nice satisfaction."

Jean-Baptiste Grange might be better known for his outstanding Slalom results, but lately he has been stepping up his game in GS. After an eight place in Bansko just a week ago (14th in the Slalom there), today he was the fastest skier of the second run, which was good enough to push him from 21st into 4th position. He once again matched his career best in the discipline, today being his third time just hundreds off the podium.

"I'm still really, really happy," Grange said after being "kicked off" the podium by, Hirscher, who started last. "Since in Slalom I'm not where I want to be, it's great to know that at least in GS I am moving forward. The steep parts were not really good but I think I made the most out of my number so I can't really complain about anything."

The Tour continues with the last speed disciplines of the season in Norway on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of March.

OFFICIAL RESULTS - Crans Montana, Switzerland

Men's Giant Slalom

1. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA, 2:33.77; 2. Marcel Hirscher, AUT, 2:33.93; 3. Hannes Reichelt, AUT, 2:34.59; 4. Jean-Baptiste Grange, FRA, 2:34.73; 5. Didier Defago, SUI, 2:34.76; 6. Philipp Schoerghofer, AUT, 2:34.80; 7. Marcel Mathis, AUT, 2:34.86; 8. Fritz Dopfer, GER, 2:34.97; 9. Ted Ligety, USA, 2:35.06; 10. Marcus Sandell, FIN, 2:35.12.

Other North Americans

19. Tommy Ford, USA, 2:35.54; 22. Tim Jitloff, USA, 2:36.02;

Disqualified 1st run

Philip Brown, CAN

Did not qualify for 2nd run

Thomas Biesemeyer, USA; Dustin Cook, CAN.

Did not finish 1st run

Andrew Weibrecht, USA; Jean-Phiippe Roy, CAN.

02/26 15:04:33 ET