Men's giant slalom wiped out

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The Independent Online

The men's World Cup giant slalom in Val d'Isere, was wiped out today, when heavy snowfall reduced visibility to dangerous levels.

The men's World Cup giant slalom in Val d'Isere, was wiped out today, when heavy snowfall reduced visibility to dangerous levels.

Race organizers had decided to start the first leg on time, hoping conditions would improve, but the skiers were clearly affected by the thick sheets of snow steadily descending on the famous Oreiller-Killy course.

"After 300 meters your goggles were just covered with water," said Austrian Christian Mayer, who was leading before the race was called off. "If you wiped it with the back of your sleeve it was even worse.

"Of course it was the same for everyone, but it was still pretty bad."

As the conditions worsened, Switzerland's Didier Cuche, 18inded by the snow in his eyes.

Race officials suspended the race after 22 racers.

"It was probably the right decision but it surprised me," said reigning World Cup giant slalom champion Michael Von Gruenigen, who sat second after the opening leg. "Once they made us start I thought we would finish it.

"But I think the visibility and course deteriorated so much after 15 racers that it was a wise decision."

Mayer, still winless this season, led with a time of 1 minute, 18.47 seconds, ahead of Von Gruenigen, who was a slim .04 back.

The Swiss skier was followed by five more Austrians, with Benjamin Raich, speed specialist Andreas Schifferer, Heinz Schilchegger and Stefan Eberharter grabbing the next four places.

For double Olympic and world champion Hermann Maier, who was hoping to avenge his giant slalom disqualification of two years ago when he had his victory revoked, the cancelation was probably good news.

The powerful Austrian - who won the race here in 1997 before being disqualified for removing a ski too soon after crossing the finishline - was sitting back in seventh place more than half a second off the pace before the race was stopped.

Maier had arrived at the classic French resort having won five of the six races he'd entered this season - including two giant slaloms, a downhill and a pair of super-G's.

The cancelation marked a total wipeout for the men at this classic stop on the World Cup circuit, with heavy snowfall and fog scrapping a downhill on Saturday.

It was the fourth downhill in eight years at this French resort that had been annulled.

The men's giant slalom will be rerun in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia on December 22, while the downhill was rescheduled for Val Gardena, Italy next week.

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